The Corner

The Debt Ceiling: The Precedents

Pairing an increase in the debt ceiling with spending cuts is, according to one liberal commentator after another, like taking hostages. Or terrorism. Or extortion. And it’s unprecedented.

Senate Republicans are fighting back against these mischaracterizations by noting the many instances in which Congress has combined debt-limit increases with measures designed to reduce the deficit.

In 1985, Congress passed a debt-limit increase along with the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit-reduction package.

In 1990, a Democratic Congress raised taxes, cut spending, and increased the debt limit in a bipartisan agreement with a Republican president.

In 1993, a Democratic Congress and president passed legislation that raised taxes, restrained spending, and raised the debt limit.

In 1997, a Democratic president and a Republican Congress agreed to budget legislation that they claimed would reduce the deficit and that also raised the debt limit.

In 2010, a Democratic president and Congress raised the debt limit while also enacting budget rules that were supposed to encourage restraint.

In 2011, a Democratic president and a Republican Congress raised the debt limit while also imposing spending cuts.

Coupling a debt-ceiling increase with measures to reduce the further growth of federal debt is not an act of revolutionary fanaticism. It’s closer to business as usual.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.


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