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Last Week's Debt Ceiling Vote

April 19, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

When Congress comes back from recess, raising the debt ceiling to accommodate necessary borrowing will be on the top of the agenda. It’s estimated that the current $14.3 trillion limit is going to be surpassed in mid-May, and if Congress does not pass an increase in the limit by then the Treasury will have to begin withholding federal payments or default on its intergovernmental obligations. Republicans in the House are threatening to vote down an increase if their spending demands are not met. However, they (all but four of them) have already gone down on the record in favor of increasing the debt limit — by $2 trillion next year and by nearly $9 trillion over the next decade.

The legislative text below come from the Republican House budget that was passed on Friday:

(5) DEBT SUBJECT TO LIMIT- Pursuant to section 301(a)(5) of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974, the appropriate levels of the public debt are as follows:

Fiscal year 2012: $16,204,000,000,000.

Fiscal year 2013: $17,177,000,000,000.

Fiscal year 2014: $17,951,000,000,000.

Fiscal year 2015: $18,697,000,000,000.

Fiscal year 2016: $19,503,000,000,000.

Fiscal year 2017: $20,245,000,000,000.

Fiscal year 2018: $20,968,000,000,000.

Fiscal year 2019: $21,699,000,000,000.

Fiscal year 2020: $22,408,000,000,000.

Fiscal year 2021: $23,102,000,000,000.

Point is, the debt ceiling debate happens in the budget process. When budgets are created, plans to increase the debt ceiling in the future are established. Voting on the actual increases in the future are matters of routine, historically handled by the majority party without too much dissent. As the Senate and House work out their 2012 budget resolution, the level of debt should be considered and debated along with Medicare, taxes, discretionary spending, etc. That way the debate over our fiscal future happens without putting the country’s financial reputation at risk.

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