Ken's Project Blog

February 22, 2011

Debt Ceiling, Then and Now

Filed under: In The News,Politics — Ken @ 9:57 am

Way, way, way back in March of 2006, then-Senator Obama said the following about the idea of raising the debt ceiling:

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies.

Over the past 5 years, our federal debt has increased by $3.5 trillion to $8.6 trillion.That is “trillion” with a “T.” That is money that we have borrowed from the Social Security trust fund, borrowed from China and Japan, borrowed from American taxpayers. And over the next 5 years, between now and 2011, the President’s budget will increase the debt by almost another $3.5 trillion.

Numbers that large are sometimes hard to understand. Some people may wonder why they matter. Here is why: This year, the Federal Government will spend $220 billion on interest. That is more money to pay interest on our national debt than we’ll spend on Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. That is more money to pay interest on our debt this year than we will spend on education, homeland security, transportation, and veterans benefits combined. It is more money in one year than we are likely to spend to rebuild the devastated gulf coast in a way that honors the best of America.

And the cost of our debt is one of the fastest growing expenses in the Federal budget. This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy, robbing our cities and States of critical investments in infrastructure like bridges, ports, and levees; robbing our families and our children of critical investments in education and health care reform; robbing our seniors of the retirement and health security they have counted on.

Every dollar we pay in interest is a dollar that is not going to investment in America’s priorities.

Senator Barack Obama
Senate Floor Speech on Public Debt
March 16, 2006

Flash-forward to 2009, and then-President Obama signed his first bill to extend the debt ceiling while on vacation in Hawaii.

Now, in 2011, we find President Obama’s administration insisting that not raising the debt ceiling would be a huge mistake, as ABC’s Jake Tapper reports:

Goolsbee, the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told me that failing to raise the debt ceiling would cause “a worse financial economic crisis than anything we saw in 2008.”

When ABC’s Jake Tapper asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the seeming contradictory statements by then-Senator Obama and now President Obama he got the following response:

Four year ago, however, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., voted the exact way President Obama is now cautioning senators not to do.

“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure,” he said on March 16, 2006. “Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership . Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.”

The debt limit was raised by a vote of 52-48.

Asked about that quote – and vote — today, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that it was important that “based on the outcome of that vote…the full faith and credit was not in doubt.”

Then-Sen. Obama used the vote “to make a point about needing to get serious about fiscal discipline….His vote was not necessarily needed on that.”

Source: ABC News

Imagine if a Republican took to the floor of the Senate and gave the same speech then-Senator Obama gave in 2006, of course changing “5 years” to “10 years” and the current debt ceiling from $8.6 trillion to $14.3 trillion, and the hoped-for increase of $700 billion… They’d be called reckless, but maybe, just maybe, like then-Senator Obama, the Republicans are trying to make a point. The House Republicans are demanding spending cuts as part of any debt ceiling increase, and if the White House can’t agree to with that position, then please explain what, exactly was the point then-Senator Obama was trying to make in March of 2006?


Senator Barack Obama Senate Floor Speech on Public Debt, March 16th, 2006

The Hill’s Blog Briefing Room: Obama signs bill raising U.S. Debt ceiling

ABC News Political Punch Blog: Goolsbee Warns Congress on Debt Ceiling ‘Insanity’ and Gibbs: Senator Obama Only Voted Against Raising Debt Ceiling in 2006 Because He Knew It Would Pass Anyway

House Speaker John Boehner Press Release: Statement by Speaker John Boehner on President’s Request to Raise Debt Limit



  1. The Republicans caused the enormous debt and the need to raise the debt ceiling. Obama’s biggest failure is extending the policies that caused the debt in the first place. He should have let the Bush tax cuts expire and let the pieces fall as they may.

    Comment by Ben Hoffman — February 22, 2011 @ 10:22 am | Reply

    • I believe all spending originates in the House, and who has controlled the House since 2007? Not the Republicans. Who has controlled the Senate the last 2 years? Not the Republicans.

      Republicans played their part, but I wouldn’t be so quick to give the left a pass on the debt.

      I applaud your concession that all tax rate increases should have reverted to their Clinton era levels – many on the Left wanted to “stick it to the top 2%.”

      I was of the opinion that Republicans were about being “fair” to all Americans, and if 98% of taxpayers got a cut, so should the remaining 2%. Conversely, if the top 2% were going to see their taxes increase, so should the other 98%. SInce the left refused to consider increasing taxes on the middle class, we wound up where we did.

      Comment by Ken — February 22, 2011 @ 1:34 pm | Reply

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