The Debt Limit Debate
The debate over the federal debt limit – which has U.S. President Barack Obama acting “like a dick,” according to one pundit – continues to rage in Washington, D.C.
A month ago, the U.S. House voted overwhelmingly against raising the limit from $14.2 trillion to $16.7 trillion. Eighty-two Democrats joined 236 Republicans in rejecting the measure – while 97 Democrats voted to raise the debt limit.
In exchange for approving an unprecedented upping of the federal government’s credit card – Republicans (and obviously more than a few Democrats) are insisting on spending cuts and an amendment that would require the federal government to balance its budget. Obama and his allies? They’re rhetorically open to a balanced budget – but they want to get there via tax increases, which the GOP has insisted are off the table.
Meanwhile fiscal conservatives in both chambers are pushing for broader spending concessions – as they should be. Specifically, they want larger immediate cuts, long-term spending caps and a balanced budget amendment that includes a new “super-majority” requirement on any Congressional vote to raise taxes.
We agree with all of those things … in fact, these are the very “radical” measures required to deal with the mountain of new debt that’s been thrust on the American people over the last few years.
“We will vote to raise the debt ceiling if we get a balanced-budget amendment,” U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) said on Thursday. “We want it contingent on a balanced-budget amendment, because what we don’t want to do is just give a blank check. We’ve raised the debt ceiling 74 times, and nothing ever changes in this city — they’re fiscally irresponsible. And we will do it if they’re forced to balance a budget like most states in the country are forced to balance a budget.”
Obama and his administration have repeatedly warned that failing to raise the debt limit – i.e. authorizing additional borrowing on the part of the federal government – would have “Armageddon-like” consequences on the U.S. economy. This week, Obama’s office warned that the country was approaching the “danger zone” on the debt limit.
“Failure to raise the debt limit would force the United States to default,” Obama Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said last month. “This would be an unprecedented event in American history. A default would inflict catastrophic, far-reaching damage on our nation’s economy.”
The only problem with that aggressive rhetoric? Obama himself has been every bit as aggressive in opposing debt hikes in the past.
“Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally” then-Senator Obama said in March of 2006. “Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.”
We agree … it’s just a shame he doesn’t feel that way today.
Republicans and Democrats have approved a combined $8.75 trillion worth of debt ceiling increases over the last decade. Of that total, $3.4 trillion was approved by George W. Bush and “GOP”-controlled Congresses. Another $2.35 trillion was approved by Bush and a Democratic-controlled Congress, while $3 trillion was approved by Obama and a Democratic-controlled Congress.
The government officially reached its debt limit on May 16, but has been using creative accounting measures to push the deadline for additional borrowing authorization to August 2.
Lawmakers now have a month to make a deal.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell have all repeatedly voted for debt ceiling increases. Specifically, all three approved a $900 billion increase in May 2003, an $800 billion increase in November 2004, a $781 billion increase in March 2006 and an $850 billion increase in September 2007 – never once demanding spending cuts as a pre-condition.
Now all three are throwing gobs of rhetorical red meat to fiscal conservatives.
How times have changed …