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John B.
Republican WY

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  • The Debt Limit

    by Senator John Barrasso

    Posted on 2013-01-24

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    BARRASSO. Madam President, I rise today to, No. 1, welcome you and welcome all of the other new Senators who have just joined this historic body.

    Along with the rest of us, you have all watched the difficult negotiations over the fiscal cliff that dominated the last few weeks of the 112th Congress. That debate was an important opportunity to talk to the American people about Washington's addiction to spending. We made clear in that debate that no amount of tax increases--no amount--would come close to wiping out Washington's debt. So as we begin the 113th Congress, we are faced with fresh opportunities to continue that conversation with the American people.

    This time the debate is over whether to raise the Nation's debt limit. Last week, the President opened negotiations on this important issue by saying that he wouldn't negotiate. He did not announce this by calling the Republicans in Congress; he did it, instead, by calling a press conference.

    In the last days of 2012, President Obama, in my opinion, failed to lead in the talks over avoiding the fiscal cliff. Now the President plans not to lead on the Nation's debt limit either. Whether the President leads, follows, or just gets out of the way, Washington needs real budget reform. We can't continue President Obama's pattern of untold trillions of dollars in wasteful government spending.

    Over the past 4 years, President Obama has added so much to our national debt that he has already had to increase our Nation's debt limit four separate times. This includes the two largest increases in our history. No other President of the United States has needed an increase of over $1 trillion. President Obama has asked for that much twice. While he once promised to cut the deficit in half by now, he has done just the opposite. He has added as much debt in 4 years as all the previous Presidents racked up in our country's first 225 years.

    President Obama has maxed out the national credit card and now he wants a new one. In return, the President isn't willing to offer any commitments that he will try to be more responsible with that next credit card. In fact, under his latest budget, the President wants to add another $6.4 trillion to our debt over the next 5 years. That is the wrong direction for our Federal budget and for the Nation's future.

    The President could take this opportunity to reassure hardworking American taxpayers, as well as world financial markets, that he is finally serious about reining in Washington's out-of-control spending. Instead, he has chosen to try to score political points.

    This isn't the first time the President has voiced an opinion on the debt limit debate. Last December, he spoke on this subject as he, in my opinion, misrepresented decades of precedence regarding congressional consideration of the debt limit. He said that connecting debt ceiling votes and budget negotiations--connecting debt ceiling votes and budget negotiations--was something that ``we had never done in our history until we did it last year.'' That statement is false. Frankly, we should be talking about responsible spending reform every time we debate any measure in Congress that involves spending money. We should certainly do it when we are debating borrowing more money.

    The debt limit has been used at least 20 times in the past 60 years specifically tied to debating fiscal reform. For example, in 1954, Congress passed a temporary increase specifically as a way to control future finances. In 1967, the House actually defeated a debt limit increase so that it could force President Johnson to quit using some of the budget tricks he had been using. In 1970, the debate over the debt limit included amendments to cut defense spending, imposing a spending cap, and freezing congressional pay until Congress passed a balanced budget.

    In 1983, Congress actually defeated a debt limit increase bill. Senator Russell Long, a Democrat, told his colleagues if they voted for the increase, ``you are voting to continue the biggest deficits in the history of this country as far as the eye can see.'' Incidentally, the debt at that time was $1.3 trillion. That is about how much we have added to our debt every year since President Obama was sworn in for the first time. Democrats balked at Washington having a debt over $1.3 trillion back then. Today, the President says Republicans are doing something irresponsible for even wanting to talk about a debt of more than $16.4 trillion.

    I could go on and on with more examples, but I think you have the idea. The President says it is unprecedented for us to even ask to have this debate. Well, the President is not correct. It is not unprecedented. It is actually very common and absolutely appropriate.

    There is nobody on the Republican side of the aisle here in the Senate who is saying we should not pay our bills. There is also nobody on this side of the aisle who thinks we should keep wasting taxpayer dollars without even trying to act responsibly and slow down Washington's spending. Yes, the debt limit is about paying for past obligations, but our history shows the debate [[Page S247]] over the debt limit is an absolutely appropriate time to talk about reforming Washington's future spending.

    President Obama agreed to spending cuts the last time he asked for an increase in the debt limit. Now the President says he wants his credit limit increased without any effort to reduce future spending. And, of course, we all remember when he was a Senator he spoke out against raising the debt limit. He once called the need to increase the debt limit ``a failure of leadership.'' But that was then. This is now.

    The White House has floated gimmicks such as issuing a $1 trillion coin or using the 14th amendment to raise the debt limit without congressional approval. And now the President won't negotiate responsible spending at all. His policies--his policies of the past 4 years--have buried our children and our grandchildren under a mountain of debt. America needs real budget reform, but President Obama insists on playing politics with our country's credit rating. Hard-working American taxpayers have to balance their budgets. They understand what the President does not.

    The President bragged in his press conference last week that ``it's been a busy and productive 4 years, and I expect the same for the next 4 years.'' Well, it looks like he means we can count on 4 more years of wasteful Washington spending.

    This has to stop. It is time for President Obama to finally keep his promise to get America's finances in order.

    Madam President, I yield the floor, and I suggest the absence of a quorum.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Ms. Warren). The clerk will call the roll.

    The assistant bill clerk proceeded to call the roll.

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