Another wildcard is the prospect of government spending cuts. With the economy already at stall speed and government spending at nearly 25 percent of GDP, any cuts could drastically change the dynamic of a struggling recovery. "The aspect to be mindful of if [politicians] do come to some agreement on spending cuts is when those spending cuts kick in," McBride says. "Too much too soon could be devastating to the overall economy."
A provisional agreement to raise the debt ceiling enables the United States to avoid default, but it does little to resolve the underlying debt issues the country faces. And while the tentative agreement might have quelled financial market jitters, ratings agencies will keep a close eye on how politicians plan to rein in the nation's soaring public debt. A downgrade would not be catastrophic, experts say, but it would add headwinds for an economy still carrying the dead weight of a debilitating recession.