Today, the House will be voting on a debt limit increase, and as CAP’s Michael Linden wrote earlier, there’s sure to be plenty of demagoguery on the part of Republicans, despite the fact that much of the recent increase in publicly-held debt is attributable to their policies. In fact, only a small portion of the publicly held debt (about $600 billion) is attributable to President Obama.
When the Senate voted last month to increase the debt limit, Republicans voted no as a bloc, which was essentially a vote for the U.S. to default on its debt. Before the vote, the GOP portrayed its collective action as a stand against spending. “It’s like the drunken sailor asking to have the bar open all night,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH).
But Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) told it straight to Congress Daily, and explained the real reason for blanket GOP opposition:
On the other side of the aisle, Republicans contend it’s not their responsibility to take this unpopular debt vote and not to expect their help. Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, a member of the Budget Committee, said, “That is the burden of the majority.”
The Senate’s vote was the first time in more than a decade that no Republican supported an increase in the debt limit. Under President Bush, the debt was increased at least seven times, and the “publicly held debt went from $3.3 trillion at the start of fiscal year 2002 (his first full fiscal year in office) to $6.3 trillion on the day he left office.” That constitutes the largest increase under any President in history, and accounts for nearly 40 percent of the total publicly held debt.
As Open Congress pointed out, “worth noting, of course, is the sudden drop off in Republican support for raising the debt ceiling as soon as Obama took office”:
A little number crunching shows that under Bush the Republicans provided, on average, 39 of the 50 votes that were generally needed to raise the debt ceiling. But under Obama, the Republicans have provided only 1 vote on average each of the three times the Senate has voted on it.
Yes, Democrats did the very same thing when the GOP was in power, lending little support to debt limit increases. But it’s the height of hypocrisy to now lampoon debt increases as the product of Obama’s profligate spending after the last eight years. Voting against an increase is a crass political vote, since debt increases are easy to criticize, while defaulting on the debt is simply not an option. At least Simpson is willing to acknowledge that.