By How Much Did Congress Increase the Debt Ceiling?

heritage foundry logoHint: It’s a Trick Question

MICHAEL SARGENT, HERITAGE FOUNDATION

Just a few weeks before President Obama releases his budget proposal to boost deficit spending for the remainder of his term, Congress voted to “raise the nation’s borrowing limit through March 2015.” But there’s one big question: By how much did Congress raise the debt limit, exactly?

As Heritage’s Romina Boccia explains on One America News Network’s Daily Ledger, Congress didn’t exactly raise the debt limit. Instead, Congress voted to “suspend” the debt limit for more than an entire year. This is an important distinction, because it means that there is no current limit on how much the United States Treasury may borrow.

Rather than put a ceiling on the national debt, Congress decided to waive the limit until next March, at which point the debt limit is automatically raised by the amount borrowed over the course of the year. Essentially, it gives the Treasury Department a blank check to borrow as much as is needed to finance all government spending authorized in law, regardless of incoming revenues.

Moreover, a clean increase or suspension ignores the debt limit’s purpose in the first place. Hitting the debt limit presents a focused opportunity for lawmakers to confront the rising debt and enact reforms to limit spending growth. As Boccia explains:

The debt limit is supposed to act as a fiscal check on spending and borrowing, and it is supposed to [protect] younger generations and future generations from excessive spending today…. [The nation should] have a limit in place that encourages fiscal restraint, and when you reach that limit, Congress should make spending cuts to put the budget on the path to balance.

But what did Congress do? Shirk that job until at least next year.

Even more troubling, the suspension of the debt limit is another abdication of Congress’s constitutional power to control borrowing, which it has now delegated to the executive branch. As Boccia further explains:

The debt limit was the last remaining tool with which Congress exercised its constitutional power to control borrowing. By suspending it, they’ve given up that power as well, concentrating all borrowing decisions in the Treasury in the executive [branch], which is President Obama’s Treasury.

Congress recklessly increased spending by $45 billon just this January with the massive omnibus bill. And President Obama is pushing an expansionary federal agenda that would increase deficit spending during his remaining term in office. Meanwhile, the President is also dropping any semblance of dealing with the key drivers of spending and debt during his term in office.

Taxpayers should be extra vigilant this year so President Obama’s year of inaction on fixing the debt does not end up becoming a “year of action” on higher spending that ends up exacerbating an already dire budget situation.


This article was originally published at Heritage.org. Used with permission.


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