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A Brief History of Debt Limit Votes in the House

May 20, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

We already know that the House Republicans support increasing the debt limit. All but four of them recently voted in favor of a budget blueprint that calls for adding $9 trillion to the debt subject to limit over the next decade. Yet somehow they have convinced Obama and the Democrats that they have to get something in return, like spending cuts that make tax increases less likely, in exchange for actually voting for the debt limit increase they’ve already endorsed.

Raising the debt limit is never popular, but both parties do it with a fair amount of regularity. As Rep. Michael Simpson [R, ID-2] noted last year, raising the debt limit is “the burden of the majority.” No matter which party is in power, the majority party has always been responsible for calling up a debt limit vote as the federal government gets close to borrowing more money to execute the laws than Congress has given them statutory authority to, and whipping their membership to get it passed. This year, however, the Republicans are bucking that trend. They seem to have convinced the Democrats that the government should either default on their obligations, or the debt limit increase should include hundreds of billions in spending cuts and preserve the low Bush-era tax rates, and that the Democrats should still provide a majority of the votes to pass it.

As I did for the Senate, below is a chart I put together using data from the Office of Management and Budget (caution, .xls file) showing all of the debt increase votes going back to 1997, what level they raised the limit to, and how many Republicans in the Senate voted for it.

Bill Containing Debt Ceiling Increase New Debt Ceiling Level Enacted Number of Republicans in House Voting “Yes” Party Controlling House/President
111-H.J.Res.45 – Increasing the statutory limit on the public debt (debt portion deemed passed in the rule, ) $14,294,000,000,000 0 Democrats/Obama
111-H.R.4314 – To permit continued financing of Government operations (2009) $12,394,000,000,000 0 Democrats/Obama
111-H.R.1 – American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (aka TARP)(2009) $12,104,000,000,000 0 Democrats/Obama
110-H.R.1424 – Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (2008) $11,315,000,000,000 91 Democrats/Bush
110-H.R.3221 – Housing and Recovery Act (2008) $10,615,000,000,000 45 Democrats/Bush
110-H.J.Res.43 – Increasing the statutory limit on the public debt (2007) (deemed passed in the budget resolution, S.Con.Res.21 $9,815,000,000,000 0 Democrats/Bush
109-H.J.Res.47 – Debt limit increase resolution (2006) (deemed passed in the budget resolution, H.Con.Res.95) $8,965,000,000,000 214 Republicans/Bush
108-S.2986 – A bill to Amend Title 31 of U.S. Code to increase the public debt limit (2004) $8,184,000,000,000 206 Republicans/Bush
108-H.J.Res.51 – Debt limit increase resolution (2003) (deemed passed in the budget resolution, H.Con.Res.95 ) $7,384,000,000,000 214 Republicans/Bush
107-S.2578 – Debt limit bill (2002) $6,400,000,000,000 211 Republicans/Bush
105-H.R.2015 – Balanced Budget Act of 1997 $5,950,000,000,000 193 Republicans/Bush

Whether you support or oppose the policies Republicans want to tack onto this, it’s clear that they’re on the verge of scoring a huge, historically anomalous, victory here. The Tea Party crowd has added a hard-line ideological edge to the Republican caucus, and the Democrats are clearly afraid. They’ve convinced the Democrats that this debt limit vote is different from all others. Rather than following the trend and taking a responsible, yet unpopular, vote, the Republicans are positioned to turn this into a big win — both policy-wise and politically.

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Comments

Displaying 31-60 of 68 total comments.

  • luminous 05/21/2011 2:29pm

    "Also, the FED is not supreme to the laws of the states. "

    Again I quote directly from the constitution,

    “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land;”

    Supreme law of the land seems pretty clear to me.

    “Oh, ok, you’re talking about total revenue, where it was 19.57% GDP in 1953 and is now 14.91% in 2010. Yeah, big change.”

    That difference represents around $800 billion dollars in difference in today dollars, again that is pretty big, and take another look at those numbers the maximum difference isn’t at the ends of your scale but in the middle,(never mind the arbitrary dates you picked out lets add 1940 though 1952 =p hah).

  • fakk2 05/21/2011 2:42pm

    Actually, the full text of that clause is a little bit more enlightening than what you provided:

    This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

    The “supremacy” of federal laws only exists IF state laws are contrary to the Constitution. The Federalist Papers, specifically #33 (2nd to last and last paragraphs) provide a pretty logical argument that States have supremacy to make their own laws, to govern their own people, as long as it’s not “contradictory” to the Constitution. The Federalist Paper is specifically talking about taxes, but can be applied to all other laws.

  • fakk2 05/21/2011 2:47pm

    well, ok, that last post didn’t really encompass the point. Yes, we all have to follow FED laws, but states are still free to make their own laws as long as it isn’t “contradictory to the constitution”. And it’s up to the Judicial Branch to figure out what is and is not contradictory. There, I think that cleaned it up a bit.

  • fakk2 05/21/2011 2:48pm

    Luminous, that chart was to show over the last 60 years, GDP has gotten bigger, but not much else other than corporate taxes as a percentage of GDP has really changed. If you want to see a massive change, let’s go from 1940 – 2010. THAT’S a large change.

  • fakk2 05/21/2011 2:49pm

    oh, haha, that is what you said. i had to re-read that one.

  • luminous 05/21/2011 3:19pm

    A 1% change represents $140 billion dollars in 2010 dollars, so adjusted over 1953 though 2010 we have a range difference of almost $1.2 trillion 2010 dollars or about 2/3 of the current deficit. Again that is huge.

  • luminous 05/22/2011 2:00pm

    Toke a bit of research but I can’t say that I can support that interpretation, Seems their are several different founders “Original” interpretations to pick any one out over the others seems lop sided. Many of the founders outright objected to any federal government at all the anti-federalists where do we fit them in?

    I am going to have to go with the definition followed by the original democrat-republican party that it is a living document with many items purposely left vague.

    And both Supreme court precedent and common understanding is that Federal laws are in fact supreme over State laws. And no States can’t just seceded when ever they willey nilly want to(save for maybe Texas as I understand it).

  • fakk2 05/22/2011 4:55pm

    It needs to be said, for anyone reading this; this is all academic and in practicality would not be answered by any one person, but by actions alone.

    Luminous, you are definitely free to “go with the definition followed by the original democrat-republican party that it is a living document with many items purposely left vague”(link added), but please don’t hold it against me if I don’t share that same opinion.

    Much has been wrote on the Constitution, especially how to read and/or interpret it. To save time and space, I will be using a lot of links. The essential question is, do we follow a strict construction or a loose construction of the Constitution?

    (cont’d)

  • fakk2 05/22/2011 4:56pm

    Personally, I prefer a strict construction of the Constitution, seeing as how to give the document a loose construction would, as Jefferson had put it , allow Congress and the FED

    “to take possession of a boundless field of power, no longer susceptible of any definition”

    The Preamble to the Bill of Rights states

    “THE Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added” (emphasis added)

    (cont’d)

  • fakk2 05/22/2011 4:56pm

    Without picking bits and pieces, the paragraph as a whole reads to mean that the Constitution, as seen in the eyes of the states, at the ratification of the Constitution, and in the eyes of the government, was and is a “limiting document” providing for a limited government. To prevent abuses of power, they felt it was necessary to add the Bill of Rights. Amendment 10 to the Constitution states

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    (cont’d)

  • fakk2 05/22/2011 4:57pm

    Now, as far as secession is concerned, nowhere does it say the states are not allowed to secede from the union. Using a strict construction of the Constitution & Bill of Rights, the 9th and 10th amendments state that powers not expressly delegated to the “United States”, are reserved to the individual states, and their citizenry. Since secession was not included n the constitution. It is, and in my estimation properly should be, the ability of a state, at the state’s will, to withdraw from the “United States” at any time. A thought-provoking article wrote by Michael C Dorf in 2004, outlines various thoughts of secession and provides reasons as to “why” or “why not”.

    (cont’d)

  • fakk2 05/22/2011 4:57pm

    Also, a pretty nice “library” about liberty, freedom, the Constitution, and such that I found is called The Online Library of Liberty. It’s definitely worth checking out.

  • fakk2 05/22/2011 5:00pm

    And, just putting this out there, in a real-world example, any state that closes it borders, puts armed patrols at its borders, prints its own money, issues its own passports/visas, grows its own foods, and such, basically any state that wants to secede, can, and the only recourse the FED has, is to cut off support for that state or invade/attack that state. If people REALLY wanted to go to those extremes of closing their borders and such, laws that Congress enacts won’t stop it from happening.

  • luminous 05/22/2011 7:10pm

    Using links from the John Birch Society really?!?

    And the tenth amendment does nothing to repeal the Necessary and Proper Clause or the Supremacy Clause or the Commerce Clause or the General Welfare Clause.

    I will also point out that in McCulloch v. Maryland, In the ruling “Pragmatically, if all of the means for implementing the explicit powers were listed, then we would not be able to understand or embrace the document;”.

    I have to disagree with your “library” link, Ludwig Von Mises and liberty don’t belong in the same reference.

    “but please don’t hold it against me if I don’t share that same opinion.”

    I don’t =-p!!!!!!!

  • nmeagent 05/22/2011 7:42pm

    The general welfare clause refers to the intent of the Constitution as a whole; it is not a blank check for federal power. If so, it would contradict many other parts of the document, especially the 9th and 10th amendments. The federal government is established for the general welfare, etc. etc., but it still bound by its founding document and certainly is not allowed to justify any action as being for the general welfare. Get it?

    The supremacy clause only applies to enumerated powers and where they conflict with the general government power of the states. Read the 10th amendment.

    “Pragmatically, if all of the means for implementing the explicit powers were listed, then we would not be able to understand or embrace the document;”

    All of the means for implementing the enumerated powers are not listed, but the actual powers that the government is permitted to carry into effect ARE listed.

  • nmeagent 05/22/2011 7:45pm

    Also, why would the founders deliberately enumerate roughly a baker’s dozen specific powers, explicitly leave EVERYTHING ELSE to the states and/or the people, yet subvert everything with a commerce clause that allows nearly limitless power?

  • luminous 05/22/2011 8:16pm

    The general welfare clause isn’t in the forward, or some place listed as a general description of the document, it is in article 1 section. 8. right along with the other enumerated powers, to say that line magically doesn’t apply or is somehow separate is plain ignorance.

    Nor does it contradict other parts of the document, the 9,10th amendments don’t limit powers already given in the document to the federal government, they give powers to the states/person in area’s not listed or specified otherwise in the document.

    “yet subvert everything with a commerce clause that allows nearly limitless power?”

    The commerce clause is hardly limitless power, but it is more far reaching then likely your ideology would prefer.

  • nmeagent 05/22/2011 8:44pm

    Sometimes people refer to the instance of general welfare in the preamble when they say “general welfare clause”. You’re right, it’s also mentioned in Article I, Section 8:

    “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; …”

    Common defense, general welfare, etc. are reasons for the powers listed immediately after this statement, and are certainly not powers themselves. All of the specific powers that follow could be absorbed into either of these reasons, so why enumerate them at all if such general power exists? Interestingly, this would also be the only ‘power’ listed without ‘To’ with a capital ‘T’ (including ‘To lay and collect taxes’). Even the form of the document argues against your claim.

    As to your other statement, I challenge you to find a single human activity that doesn’t peripherally affect interstate commerce in some way.

  • fakk2 05/23/2011 1:24am

    Using links from the John Birch Society really?!?

    I don’t have to agree with someone’s methods or ideology. But when a simple, self-evident truth is presented, well, that I can agree with.

    Ludwig Von Mises and liberty don’t belong in the same reference

    WOW, THANK YOU so much for saying that! It’s amazing how great a combination “Ludwig Von Mises” and “liberty” make in the same reference

    b

  • luminous 05/23/2011 1:30am

    Arguing about the placement of the word to?, I suggest looking at the start of the sentence for capitalization,

    “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”

    Unlike the following clauses which start with the word “To” the first one starts with the word “The”.

  • luminous 05/23/2011 1:30am

    It is not listing reasons, its listing enumerated powers, the reasons can be found in the preamble. It states the power in this case “To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises”, Gives the purpose of this power, basically the power todo something with this power(as collecting taxes would be pointless if they couldn’t do anything with it) “to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States;” and places a limit on this power “but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;”.

  • fakk2 05/23/2011 1:44am

    Nor does it contradict other parts of the document, the 9,10th amendments don’t limit powers already given in the document to the federal government, they give powers to the states/person in area’s not listed or specified otherwise in the document. [emphasis added]

    This statement is the problem. No one can give people “rights” or power except our “Creator”. Such as the Declaration of Independence says:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed

    The Declaration goes on to say that when governments become destructive to securing the rights of the governed, the people can institute new government.

    (cont’d)

  • luminous 05/23/2011 1:51am

    “WOW, THANK YOU so much for saying that! It’s amazing how great a combination “Ludwig Von Mises” and “liberty” make”

    Between the mans theories dependence on racial inequality(put his name and stormfront into google, warning not work safe), And general dependence on disproven Austrian economic theory It is a wonder anyone would think that.

  • fakk2 05/23/2011 2:01am

    This is reaffirmed in the Constitution, where the founding fathers “instituted a new government, laying it’s foundation on the principles of equality and the citizen’s unalienable rights” (paraphrased from the Declaration of Independence)

    We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

    Also, the 9th Amendment states:

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people

    Our rights, our power, exist without government, not because of it. Among these are Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness

  • fakk2 05/23/2011 2:02am

    You didn’t even red the Von Mises link, did you? I thought it was a pretty darn good read.

  • nmeagent 05/23/2011 2:05am

    You’re missing my point about structure. Say there are five enumerated powers in an imaginary Section 8:

    “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, etc., to accomplish our purported aims of general welfare, defense, etc.;
    To carry into effect power A;
    To carry into effect power B;
    To carry into effect power C;
    To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, etc.”

    This is structurally equivalent to the real Article I Section 8. Notice punctuation and capitalization, especially ‘Power To’ and subsequent instances of ‘To’. Notice that ‘to accomplish our…’ is a dependent clause, which taken in isolation makes no sense. The overall structure was chosen precisely to introduce and define a list of things; do you really expect us to believe that the founders (most of which were attorneys and probably ridiculously precise) carefully laid out the enumerated powers one-by-one with the sole exception of the first two?

  • nmeagent 05/23/2011 2:16am

    “put his name and stormfront into google”

    Guilt by association? Vast numbers of neo-nazis probably like ice cream. I’m a big believer in ice cream; does that make me a fascist?

  • nmeagent 05/23/2011 2:19am

    No need to actually answer that. I’m just pointing out absurdity by being absurd.

  • fakk2 05/23/2011 2:26am

    luminous, did you realize the SAT was created originally as an IQ test, on the belief that different races had different IQ, without regard to education or will to learn? Also, the main proponent of the SAT, Carl Brighan, believed in Eugenics and tight immigration reform to “safeguard Nordic superiority”. Brighan eventually realized his earlier theories were wrong, and denounced them. People can make mistakes. They can be dumb. They can be wrong. But if they write something that makes sense, like the Von Mises link I gave (haven’t read all of it, only half), then how can we deny what they wrote is still relevant and true, although we disagree with the life choices of the person writing it?

  • fakk2 05/23/2011 2:28am

    hahaha nmeagent, yes, you’re TOTALLY a fascist! But that’s ok, I AM TOO! YAY for ice cream comrade!

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