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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 1-30 of 68 total comments.

fakk2 05/20/2011 6:56pm

and luminous, this is one of those times I can completely agree with you. No matter how this debt ceiling vote turns out, Republicans will get blame from someone, somewhere, and the media will fly with it.

jcolley 05/20/2011 8:05pm

Everyone needs to watch this documentary “The Secret Of Oz” http://youtu.be/swkq2E8mswI

The world economy is doomed to spiral downwards until we do 2 things: outlaw government borrowing; 2. outlaw fractional reserve lending. Banks should only be allowed to lend out money they actually have and nations do not have to run up a “National Debt”. Remember: It’s not what backs the money, it’s who controls its quantity.

If you haven’t already you all need to get Bill Still’s new book “No More National Debt”. If you think The Secret of Oz was good you will love his new book. It will one day go down as the greatest economic books written in history. Someone with connections in Washington should send Ben Bernanke a copy =) Though I’m sure the common peoples freedom from serfdom is the last thing he wants, it wouldn’t be in the best interest of his owners.

No More National Debt >> http://www.secretofoz.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=184:new-book-qno-more-national-debtq

jsimsnewchapter 05/20/2011 3:37pm

Not necessarily. It’s call objectivity. If they can provoke the Democrats (the minority party) into supplying the majority of the votes to pass this, oh, and by the way, get their agenda passed along with it, all the while voting against it, or abstaining, they can: a.) get their agenda in place b.) make the democrats look fiscally irresponsible and c.)back democrats further into a corner.

The fact of the matter is, until the left grows a backbone and starts taking stands, they’re going to be ground up like dog meat by the corporate machine that is the republican party, no matter who’s got the better ideas.

fakk2 05/20/2011 6:55pm

The left has grown a backbone, jsimsnewchapter. They have deluded Americans into believe the FED can and will and should provide for all their basic needs. This isn’t true, and even comes close to being unethical. Not all Democrats are left, but speaking about the left, whether Democrats or Republicans, they give the FED a “social benefactor” title that it doesn’t deserve. Through years and years of pandering and promising and buying votes from poor, uneducated, disgruntled, and even morally bankrupt individuals (whereas the right has done this w/ corporations) they have generated the mentality of “depend on the government”. It’s been played out for the last 2 years, where more was spent than in all the first 8 years of the previous administration. The government operates on using force to do what it wants to do. The government isn’t generous. But because the left has led millions to believe the government is generous, they have proven they have a backbone.

nogovtethics 07/17/2011 9:12pm

I hate one sided research without showing the whole picture. One can’t make an argument without all the info. 1997 vote unanimous. Ayes for D’s as follows: 1997 – 30, 2002 – 36, 2003 – 2, 2004 – 2, 2006 – 1, 2007 – 26, 2008 – 48 and 40, respectively, 2009 – 57 and 57 respectively, 2010 – 60. Puts things in persepctive, doesn’t it? In 2006 44 D’s voted nay (including then sen. Obama), 31 are still in office – Shumer who voted Nay in 2006, now says that voting against it is like "playing with fire). 2006 3 R’s and 1 I voted nay. In 2007, 21 D’s voted NAY, (then Sen OBAMA abstained with 4 others). Sen. Obama also abstained in 2008, but voted aye for TARP. In 02 there were 49 R’s, 18 nays, 07 and 08 44 R’s, 10 and 11 nays respectively.

fakk2 05/20/2011 6:58pm

on a side note, why was this wrote about, but the President violating the War Powers Act and Congress not voting to extend the “Libyan Incursion” not wrote about? I would think the President violating the law would be MUCH more interesting and debatable than something that can still be changed. Also, can’t he be impeached for that? I mean, he did break the law.

luminous 05/21/2011 3:27am

It doesn’t just run afoul of the Foreign affairs clause, it also violates the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment, likely also violates the supremacy clause due to existing and conflicting federal laws.

http://nysiaf.org/2010/12/20/arizona-laws-authors-neo-nazi-tie/

It is very interesting who the author of that law pals around with isn’t it?

“10% of 6% isn’t very much variance.”

Not 10% of 6%, a variance of 6% TO 10% of total GDP, That is a huge variance.

“Of course their reps affect you, but the laws you mentioned were laws their Congressional reps didn’t sponsor or vote on.”

Every action they take represents the intent of their party, if it was just 1-2 off state that would be one thing, but it is a multi state coordinated effort. They choose to be a brand, the republican party brand in this case, they both represent and are represented by the sum total of the actions of their party.

notbobslc 07/26/2011 1:39pm

epic: what is your plan then to prevent the full on financial collapse caused by a national debt that is greater than our GDP ? Every single country in history that has had a debt as large as ours has defaulted. We as a country have defaulted 10 times in our history.

You have absolutely no evidence to back up the claim that not raising the debt limit will hurt the economy in any way!

luminous 05/21/2011 12:20am

“I can’t say the idea of allowing someone to vote w/o a picture ID proving it’s them is reassuring. It makes me wonder how many elections I’ve taken part in at places I’ve never been.”

I can’t say I am particularly against picture ID, I am against all of the other nonsense riding along side in these bills. Alot of the extra stuff in these bills is the same garbage that was used to keep blacks from voting in the south before the VRA, its disgusting that anyone would pass laws like these now.

xExekut3x 07/21/2011 12:33am

Now why not show the Democrat votes as well? A little partisan, are we?

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.

luminous 05/23/2011 3:35am

“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?”

Ohh, no the first two are laid out carefully as well, taxation just has a special place in their hearts consider their previous experiences. the common defense and general welfare bit of that is as much itself a limitation on what the power of taxation can be used for as any other part dealing with that. Clearly the founders didn’t want taxes to be collected for other purposes.

“Guilt by association?”

Its the reason for the association, not the association itself, as far as I know he never renounced his racial theories. In the context of arguing about how we should run the country such things should be pointed out.

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!

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 2:02am

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

epicism 05/20/2011 3:17pm
clear that they’re on the verge of scoring a huge, historically anomalous, victory here.[/bq]

This reads as written by an apparent fan of the GOP’s despicable tactics. I think the majority of Americans fully recognize that Republicans are doing no less than playing an ideological game of chicken with the economy — merely to score political points.

Surely the Tea Parties influence on today’s political climate is apparent, however this change in paradigm is most certainly not a win of any kind. It is instead a superfluous waste of valuable time, serving only to clutter the issue and preempt important policy discussion about the future of our country.

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?

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 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 1:30am

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;”.

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”.

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

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?

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 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?

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.

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 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!!!!!!!

fakk2 05/20/2011 6:51pm

Wait a minute, are you all really saying it’s more responsible for a vote to be taken to increase the debt, with no cutbacks whatsoever?

Yes, they have shown support for raising the limit, but why is that a bad thing? Who said they had to be against it? All the Republicans want is something in return. Why is that a horrible idea?

I’m actually in favor of NOT raising the debt limit, and making us deal with the problems we’ve generated for ourselves. I understand though why that stance isn’t likely and will result in the worst outcome, so as a voter I can understand raising the limit, but only if some fiscal responsiblity for the future is included. Maybe a balanced budget amendment, maybe a trillion or two in cuts in spending, and maybe even some tax increases. Although it’s been shown multiple times raising taxes doesn’t raise revenue, I also understand non-fiscal conservatives aren’t as educated as the rest of us, so we’d have to include that for the minority.

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.

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