Do House Republicans realize they just endorsed a higher debt limit?
The fiscal 2012 budget resolution proposed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) drew the support of all 235 Republicans present and voting Friday, as well as the opposition from all 193 Democrats in attendance. That means 235 members of the House GOP are now on record in favor of slowing the growth of domestic discretionary spending and Medicaid, shrinking the deficit gradually through fiscal 2015, and sharply reducing federal spending as a percentage of the economy over the long term.
They're also on record favoring an increase in the debt ceiling, which currently stands at $14.3 trillion.
Pages 5 and 6 of the budget resolution declare that the "appropriate levels of debt" subject to the debt ceiling are as follows:
Fiscal year 2012: $16,204,000,000,000.
Fiscal year 2013: $17,177,000,000,000.
Fiscal year 2014: $17,955,000,000,000.
Fiscal year 2015: $18,704,000,000,000.
Fiscal year 2016: $19,513,000,000,000.
Fiscal year 2017: $20,257,000,000,000.
Fiscal year 2018: $20,981,000,000,000.
Fiscal year 2019: $21,711,000,000,000.
Fiscal year 2020: $22,416,000,000,000.
Fiscal year 2021: $23,105,000,000,000.
As far as I could tell, no amendments were offered to reduce the levels of spending outlined in the budget to hold that level of debt at or below $14.3 trillion. So, I guess that means Republicans won't object to raising the current debt ceiling within the next few weeks so that the federal government can honor the commitments it has already made?
I know, this sounds like another one of those "gotcha" posts. That's not my point. As The Times' editorial board has said (most recently on Tuesday), the fight over borrowing should be waged on the budget resolution (where Congress sets limits on spending overall and by category), appropriations bills (where Congress authorizes the executive branch to spend money) and on laws affecting taxes and entitlements (where Congress determines how much the government collects and how much it hands out automatically to qualified beneficiaries). It should not be waged over the debt ceiling. It makes no sense to demagogue over the debt ceiling after concluding two contentious debates over budgets (on the Ryan resolution and the spending bill for the rest of fiscal 2011), both of which push the debt past the statutory limit.
-- Jon Healey
Republican Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) talks about the budget on NBC's "Meet the Press" in Washington Sunday, April 10, 2011. Credit: William B. Plowman / AP Photo / NBC