Debt Ceiling and Reg Relief: Looking Back to 1996

by John Berlau


Earlier this week in NRO, Wayne Crews and I made the case for including regulatory relief in a debt ceiling package. Further research shows there is a precedent for including reg relief measures in a debt ceiling deal.

In 1996, after months of deadlocking on budget negotiations that resulted in a government shutdown and a six-month delay in hiking the debt limit, regulatory reform measures were attached to the Contract with America Advancement Act, a debt hike package passed by the Republican Congress and signed by President Clinton.

I write on the details of this package in a blog post at CEI’s As I note in the post, “The debt ceiling was breached for half a year in the mid-90s — at that time the shutdown took precedence in the headlines over the debt ceiling breach — and there was no catastrophe to speak of.”

All the more reason for Congress to exercise its prerogative to approve new borrowing — a prerogative, as I have written, that stems from the Constitution Article I, Section 8 and is not dampened by the 14th Amendment — to push for spending cuts and for a “ceiling” on overregulation.

— John Berlau is director of the Center for Investors and Entrepreneurs at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

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