Stuck in Congressional "Groundhog Day"
by Amy Payne, Heritage Foundation, February 10, 2014
In the movie “Groundhog Day,” Bill Murray wakes up again and again to find that he is stuck in the same day. This happens multiple times a year now with Congress on the debt limit, which we just hit again on Saturday.
>>> Check Out: The Debt Ceiling Returns as National Debt Reaches $17.3 Trillion
Depending on which party’s in power, the ones arguing for or against raising the debt ceiling will change—which makes for fun historical quotations like Obama vs. Obama on the debt limit. In our new video, you can see politicians from both sides arguing the debt limit—and vowing that they will not, absolutely not, have this same argument again next year.
And then it’s Groundhog Day again.
But this time there’s a new twist: Congress isn’t limiting the debt at all.
The government has actually been operating since October with no debt limit in place. Congress “suspended” it twice last year, and they’re considering doing it again—for an entire year.
Just since the limit was suspended in the fall, Washington has borrowed nearly $600 billion. So what happens if lawmakers throw up their hands and abandon the debt limit for a year? Romina Boccia, Heritage’s Grover M. Hermann Fellow, warns:
The debt limit serves as an important congressional check on federal spending and borrowing. Without a debt limit, all control over borrowing decisions shifts to the Treasury secretary, who is appointed by the president. Effectively, this concentrates borrowing authority in the executive branch, and hands the president a blank check to borrow against the U.S. taxpayer.
President Obama is already threatening to disregard Congress and use executive actions to make laws. Will he have all the borrowing power, too? Does Congress do anything anymore?
Members will take another vote at the end of February to determine what to do about the debt ceiling. In the meantime, the U.S. national debt reached nearly $17.3 trillion at midnight on February 7. As Boccia says, “The approach of that deadline should have sparked serious Congressional deliberations of how to reduce the growing debt burden on taxpayers.”
If serious reforms—cutting spending and reforming the entitlement programs on auto-pilot—don’t happen, the national debt is projected to increase by another $10 trillion over the next decade. That would mean about $200,000 per household.
As Boccia pointed out, Bill Murray’s character was “unable to break out of the time loop until he recognizes it as an opportunity to re-examine his life and priorities.” Let’s hope Congress wakes up to a new day, and soon.
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