Looming Debt Ceiling

Floor Speech

Date: Jan. 25, 2023
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. BLUMENAUER. Madam Speaker, I was very encouraged with today's reports that the Republican leadership is planning to teach their Members about how the debt ceiling works. This is a very good sign, especially after the embarrassing first week with 15 votes to elect a Speaker, and the House leadership ending up exactly where it started. Unfortunately, the leadership is hallowed out, but they have empowered the exact same element or any other faction who want to hold the Speaker hostage.

But there is a key difference going forward. They are playing games with the full faith and credit of the United States, which is underpinning the global economy. Note, the debt ceiling is not just a way station on the way to a full government shutdown. While government shutdowns have real costs and consequences, the debt ceiling has massive ramifications that you cannot unwind.

This game of chicken with the global economy is very much more consequential. You can recover from the shutdown. But the Trump attacks on professionals, for example, drove thousands of people out of government service, and it is going to take years and millions of dollars to repair. These implementations of political slogans have real consequences.

In the end, I suspect we will be right where we started. The only way to reduce the deficit, to balance the budget books, is to actually reduce government spending, which they refused to do in the Trump administration when they were in total control of the government. They instead had a huge increase in the deficit. There were, of course, tax cuts that were a part of that, unfunded, and there was a major spike in military spending.

My friend, Hal Harvey, a leader in climate science, is fond of saying that you can't refute science, math, and economics. That is exactly the situation that my Republican friends are facing with this game of chicken with the debt ceiling.

There is no gimmick, there is no commission, and there is no slogan that avoids the painful truth that you actually have to reduce spending. There are real things we could do.

I would suggest any Member could avail themselves of a secret weapon that is in each and every one of our districts. There are amazing young people who are involved with civics, with leadership congresses, with the efforts to understand how government works. I think we ought to employ them. They understand the dynamic: Cut spending, raise taxes, or just collect the taxes that are due and owing, which would be hundreds of billions of dollars. Unless and until we do this, all the rest is simply meaningless slogans and posturing, unfortunately with real risks of threatening the full faith and credit of the United States.

My friends have no alternative to the borrowing, and I am afraid that we are going to end up going through this meaningless exercise, agitating ourselves, confusing the public, and losing an opportunity to make real progress, improving the budgeting process, and making the tax system more effective to just collect the taxes that are already due and owing, which we are ignoring.

I strongly encourage the process that my Republican friends are involved with in terms of educating Members about the impacts of the debt ceiling, and I hope that we are able to come together to deal with the realities of what that implies.