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The Republicans Haven't Always Been Against Raising the Debt Ceiling

January 28, 2010 - by Donny Shaw

As Eric reported earlier, the Senate this afternoon voted to increase the federal debt ceiling, something that they do fairly routinely. Republicans took the opportunity to protest what they see as Obama and the Democrats’ excessive spending by voting in lock step against the increase, regardless of the fact that most of the recent deficit has been caused by an enormous drop of tax revenue for the government caused by the economic crisis.

The Republicans haven’t always been against increasing the federal debt ceiling. This is the first time in recent history (the past decade or so) that no Republican has voted for the increase. In fact, on most of the ten other votes to increase the federal debt limit that the Senate has taken since 1997, the Republicans provided the majority of the votes in favor.

Here’s a chart I’ve put together using data from the Office of Management and Budget (caution, .xls file) this table 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 Senate Voting “Yes”
111-H.J.Res.45 – Increasing the statutory limit on the public debt (the current bill) $14,294,000,000,000 0
111-H.R.4314 – To permit continued financing of Government operations (2009) $12,394,000,000,000 1
111-H.R.1 – American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (2009) $12,104,000,000,000 2
110-H.R.1424 – Emergency Economic Stabilization Act (2008) $11,315,000,000,000 33
110-H.R.3221 – Housing and Recovery Act (2008) $10,615,000,000,000 34
110-H.J.Res.43 – Increasing the statutory limit on the public debt (2007) $9,815,000,000,000 26
109-H.J.Res.47 – Debt limit increase resolution (2006) $8,965,000,000,000 51
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 50
108-H.J.Res.51 – Debt limit increase resolution (2003) $7,384,000,000,000 50
107-S.2578 – Debt limit bill (2002) $6,400,000,000,000 31
105-H.R.2015 – Balanced Budget Act of 1997 $5,950,000,000,000 Passed by unanimous consent; 55 Republicans vote in favor

As you can see, today’s increase was a big one. In fact, it was the biggest debt limit increase in history. But it’s no bigger than what you’d get if you put combined some of the increases that the Republicans provided the majority of the votes for during the Bush years.

Worth noting, of course, is the sudden drop off in Republican support for raising the debt ceiling as soon as Obama took office. A little number crunching shows that under Bush the Republicans provided, on average, 39 of the 50 votes that were generally needed to raise the debt ceiling. But under Obama, the Republicans have provided only 1 vote on average each of the three times the Senate has voted on it.

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