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Congress Sets New Debt Ceiling

By March 17, 2006

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debt as a percent of GDP - click for full NPR chart Updated: 12.30 pm Pacific
For the fourth time in five years, Congress has raised the nation's debt ceiling -- this time to $9 trillion; it awaits Presidential signature. The Senate's party-line* vote was 52-48; the House approves the increase automatically.

When President Bush assumed office in January 2001, the nation's debt was $5.6 trillion and the budget was in surplus. Total debt has increased 50 percent during his five years in office. In 2005, the debt was equivalent to 60 percent of Gross Domestic Product; when President Reagan took office in 1980, it was 33 percent.

The increase in debt has renewed calls for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the US Constitution. No wonder, since immediately after the vote, Congress set about writing election-year checks: "It was the political equivalent of going on a shopping spree the same day you get a credit-line increase on your over-the-limit card."

By the end of the day, the House Appropriations committee had received 3,602 additional spending requests totaling $14.9 billion. The Senate had proposed attaching an additional $7 billion to a $92 billion budget proposal for the war Iraq and hurricane recovery. Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA): "I don't have any apologies to make for this 7 billion. I'm still not satisfied."

So much for last week's rhetoric at the annual Southern Republican Leadership Conference, with its vows to cut spending across the board and calls for a Presidential line-time veto ("Stop me before I spend again!," the Congress pleas). We'll have to wait and see which matters at the ballot box: actions or words.

For more, see Republicans Raise US Debt Ceiling to $9 Trillion, Caused by Iraq War and Tax Breaks for the Rich, More Duplicity and Ineptitude, More Credit Card Conservatives.

(*) Details on the party-line vote. Jeffords (I-VT) voted no. Voting counter to their party:

  • Yes: Landrieu (D-LA)
  • No: Chafee (R-RI), Collins (R-ME), DeWine (R-OH), Ensign (R-NV)

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Comments

April 26, 2007 at 10:58 am
(1) Nate Osgood says:

Dear Editor,
I do agree with this article in the sense that America’s government is spending way too much money and we are way too far in debt. However, I would like to point out that the reason for the recent debt hike is not necessarily due to President Bush taking office. Although many people would look at the graph of our national debt and see that the debt skyrocketed when Bush took the presidency, this is also the exact same time as September 11th. After September 11th, we, America, obviously took to the offense and began our new wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This, however, was the reason for the increase in our national debt, not a new president. Any president in his situation would have also started an overseas war. Unfortunately, we have been in Iraq for so long now that people have lost interest and now want our troops back home. This is another topic entirely and is not really related to this topic, however. It is true that our government needs to cut back on its spending, but please, don’t blame the president. Congress makes most of the decisions regarding our money, but the president is blamed in the end. It’s really not his fault. Bush, although he’s not perfect, has made a lot of right choices. I hope that we will soon see some cuts in government spending, especially with the fast-approaching debt ceiling, but I don’t believe that it’s Bush’s fault that the debt has risen since he has been in office.

September 29, 2007 at 4:02 pm
(2) tony says:

Unfortunately I will have to disagree that Bush is not at fault for the raise in our debt. While fighting a war, he gave billions of dollars of tax cuts to his supporters and borrowed us into a debt we can’t repay. While it is always nice to blame the war, remember that Iraq was a war of choice that we should never have started. And after starting it, Bush should have come up with a better way to pay for it besides borrowing the money from China, Japan and South Korea. He will have the luxury of being out of office when the bill comes due for his war, and I am sure that the GOP will blame the debt on the Democrats because they authorized Bush to go to war. That is their usual way of thinking.

October 1, 2007 at 5:30 pm
(3) uspolitics says:

To Nate and Tony:

The reason that the federal debt has increased under President Bush is because outlays have exceeded income.

RE the assertion that all of the red ink can be laid at the feet of Iraq/Afghanistan: it’s false.

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