Despite recent rhetoric from GOP lawmakers, Republican presidents have raised the statutory limit on U.S. debt by a much greater percentage than either of the two Democrats elected since 1981. According an analysis of historical data compiled on the statutory limit by the Office of Management and Budget, former President Ronald Reagan outstrips all other executives to date, increasing the debt ceiling by 199.5 percent during his eight years in office. He is followed by President George W. Bush, Jr. at a 90.2 percent increase over eight years and by President George H. Bush, Sr. at a 48.0 percent increase over only four years in office.
Democratic Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, on the other hand, have only raised the debt ceiling by 43.6 and 26.3 percent, respectively. It remains to be seen whether or not Congress will reach a compromise and pass legislation to increase the statutory limit again by the Aug. 2 deadline issued by the U.S. Treasury. Even if Congress does pass the proposed $2.4-trillion increase, Obama will still be looking at a total increase of 47.5 percent over his first term — less than half of the increase that Reagan oversaw during his first four years. See the OMB’s historical figures charted: