By Rep. Jason Smith
While today’s spending by Congress may not suggest as much, our nation does indeed have a debt limit – that is, a cap on how much the federal government can borrow in order to spend. If you turned on the news or read the paper lately, there is a good chance you have seen Democrats in Congress turning the issue into their latest self-created crisis. They have insisted that they cannot deal with it by themselves, despite controlling all of Congress and the White House.
As the top Republican on the House Budget Committee, I have watched in complete dismay as the Democrat Chairman of our committee has called for the debt limit to be abolished or raised by a “gazillion” dollars – so high that Congress would effectively never reach it.
The argument goes something like this: Congress has the constitutional authority to spend. Why concern itself with how much it needs to borrow in order to spend? Why not make it easy so Congress can avoid a discussion about debt altogether?
But what this argument conveniently leaves out is the purpose of the debt limit – namely how it is meant to help hold Congress accountable for the spending it passes. At the very least, it ensures Congress must acknowledge the consequences of its spending habits – however uncomfortable that discussion might be or how inconvenient Democrats might find it to be for their unprecedented, debt-inducing spending spree.
The debt limit is not a tool to enact more spending, as the Democrats would have you believe, but rather, a way to control Congress’s appetite for deficit spending. In fact, ever since 1985, increases to the debt limit have often been paired with spending controls – including triggers for across-the-board cuts to programs if Congress violated those restraints.
Now more than ever Washington needs to take stock of how runaway government spending has put our country’s finances in dire straits. Our national debt is rapidly approaching $30 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects the deficit for 2021 to be almost $3 trillion, the second highest in American history. We are already on pace to spend $6.8 trillion in 2021 and $63.4 trillion over the next ten years – as well as $5.4 trillion to pay the interest on our debt, more than all income taxes paid by the bottom 90 percent of earners.
President Biden and Congressional Democrats are intent on making matters much worse. As working families are experiencing the highest rate of inflation in nearly forty years, as prices for everyday goods and services like the fuel you put in your car or the food on your table have risen massively, Washington Democrats are trying to ram through a $4.3 trillion tax and spending plan on purely partisan lines. Trillions more in spending will only further fuel the inflation crisis. It will make running a business or raising a family more expensive and more challenging.
Sadly, President Biden does not seem to care about those consequences – or at least thinks ignoring them will make it all go away. Exhibit A: this bizarre claim from the President that the cost of his agenda is “zero,” when it would actually add $2.4 trillion in new debt. Truly, the only way Democrats can enact their agenda, which rewards the wealthy and their political allies, is through a massive increase to our debt limit that will eventually be paid for by working-class families.
To be clear, Congress’s spending problem did not happen overnight. But we will not fix a spending problem by spending even more, or inflate our way out of inflation, as Democrats are proposing. If they have the votes to ram their radical agenda through Congress, they can find the votes to raise the debt ceiling on their own. They will have to be the ones to justify that agenda to the American people along with the trillions they will need to borrow in order to enact it.
Democrats want to raise our country’s borrowing limit so they can pass a radical agenda that gives Washington the greatest command and control over the lives and livelihoods of the American people in our nation’s history. They should accompany that sales pitch with an honest price tag.
Read the op-ed here.