Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson told Congress on Wednesday that the federal government will hit the current debt ceiling on Oct. 1.

He urged quick action to increase the limit, saying it was essential to protect the "full faith and credit" of the country, especially at a time of financial market turmoil.

The current debt limit is $8.965 trillion. Unless Congress votes to raise that ceiling, the country would be unable to borrow more money to keep the government operating and to pay debt obligations coming due. The United States has never defaulted on a debt payment but the decision on whether to raise the debt ceiling often sparks a prolonged political battle in Congress.