On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that President Trump is now in ongoing discussions with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to kill the requirement that Congress approve debt ceiling increases outright. The government spends an inordinate amount of money every year – between federal, state, and local spending, the government spends some 40% of the entire American annual GDP – but doesn’t actually pay for it through tax dollars. Instead, the government racks up trillions in debt: the federal government currently carries a $20 trillion debt.
So we borrow. We borrow money by selling bonds, and we use the cash to service that debt. But the executive branch can’t just borrow an unending amount of cash: Congress must approve. That’s because Article I of the Constitution grants Congress, not the presidency, the power of the purse. The debt ceiling debates are meant to create discussion and legislation around the notion of cutting back government in order to avoid taking out new debt every few months. Debt ceiling discussions are also used on a frequent basis to elicit concessions from the party in the White House.
Now Trump and the Democrats want to kill that requirement. Instead, they want to essentially waive Congress’ ability to set limits on federal borrowing altogether, either through the so-called “Gephardt Rule,” or through an even clearer rule. That’s because Trump wants to be able to pass tax reform without worrying about debt ceiling issues, and also because Trump isn’t willing to negotiate with Republicans on cutting spending in any significant way.
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI), that dreaded “cuck,” says he opposes such measures; as he stated, “I won’t get into a private conversation that we had, but I think there’s a legitimate role for the power of the purse of the Article I powers, and that’s something we defend here in Congress.”
Democrats, naturally, are overjoyed. They see a future in which they can simply kick the can down the road indefinitely, and claim that any objections to spending are rooted in cruelty rather than fiscal responsibility. Debt ceiling discussions force the American public to discuss the public debt repeatedly; getting rid of that responsibility allows Democrats to avoid having such discussions at all.
So, here we are: the Republican President wants his Republican Congress to get rid of the debt ceiling limitations so that we can continue to borrow indefinitely. And if you don’t approve of such logic, you’re apparently a RINO.