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Q: What is the debt limit?

 

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A: The U.S. Treasury Department manages the revenue coming into the federal treasury and the money going out the door to pay the bills. Congress sets a debt ceiling that limits the amount of debt the U.S. Treasury is allowed to extend to finance government operations. From Social Security payments to border security, health care and veterans benefits, the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury is tasked with making sure its borrowing authority aligns with the nation’s financial obligations. Since 2001, the federal government has spent more than it collects in revenue. That means the U.S. Treasury Department must borrow money to finance government operations. Although Congress controls the purse strings, too many big spenders treat the debt limit with a cavalier attitude. They think spending and borrowing is no big deal. That’s where they’re dead wrong. Raising the lid on the debt ought to be taken very seriously. During my time in Congress, I’ve voted to increase the debt limit because the consequences of not doing so could be severe. Since 1960, Congress has acted 78 times to raise or revise the debt limit, but this often spurred a conversation about how we can reduce overspending and the need for future borrowing. However, this time is different. The Senate voted to fast-track legislation that paves the way for a simple majority vote to raise the debt limit and increase the federal government’s current $28.9 trillion borrowing authority. The Biden administration and Democratic Majority in Congress want trillions more spending for their reckless tax and spend spree. They are willing to push that boondoggle through with a purely partisan vote using the budget reconciliation process. If they’re pushing a purely partisan tax and spending bill, they also should bear the responsibility for raising the debt limit to pay for it, and could use that same budget reconciliation procedure to do so, but have refused. Instead, they are using a procedural gimmick to approve a higher debt limit that paves the way for reckless spending as far as the eye can see. I want no part of that.

 

Q: Why are you voting no to raise the debt limit?

 

A: Iowa households can’t play games with their own budgets. Congress shouldn’t play footsie with the full faith and credit of the United States. That’s why I have voted in previous years to raise the debt ceiling. However, this really boils down to a fundamental issue, time and time again. The federal government spends too much, so it keeps needing to borrow too much. By all accounts, the COVID-19 pandemic blew up the budget last year when Congress approved $4 trillion in response to the public health and economic crisis. Then, the Biden administration seized the advantage to spend nearly $2 trillion more in March, ignoring warning signs of inflation. And still, big spenders aren’t satisfied. Now, they’re pushing to spend trillions more taxpayer dollars to advance a reckless social and green new deal spending agenda, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates would add $3 trillion to the debt if, as they intend, their spending proposals are made permanent. Let me be clear. If enacted into law, no one on the planet believes the Biden administration and the Democrat leadership in Congress want these massive new social spending programs to sunset. Plus, they’re already pushing a series of massive tax hikes to pay for the initial years of their new programs.

 

The paychecks and savings of American families already are getting swallowed up by inflation, the likes of which we haven’t seen in 39 years. From gas to groceries, inflation is delivering lumps of coal in Americans’ stockings for Christmas. We need to nip this reckless spending in the bud before we repeat the mistakes of the past. If we don’t hit the brakes on overspending, the Biden administration will put America on a path to stagflation and high interest rates that will slow economic growth for years to come.

Author: Charles Grassley

Chuck Grassley of New Hartford has represented Iowa in the United States Senate since 1980.

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