Debt, Deficit, Spending, and the Size of Government

Summary

Every candidate and representative states that they are opposed to increasing the US debt and that overall spending needs to be lowered. However, most of those representatives still votes to increase the national debt ceiling when necessary. The "Debt, Deficit, Spending, and the Size of Government" tab for each representative shows their stated viewpoints on the national debt and the size of government. Some representatives believe that the size of government should be reduced while others believe that taxes need to be increased to increase revenue.

This page explains the current and recent history of the national debt. It shows the debt level for the US since 1990, and describes the legislation that has been enacted to increase the debt ceiling. Also listed below are the key votes on those debt ceiling increases that will appear under each representatives profile, and additional legislation which will show up in the representative's profile if they were a co-sponsor.

 

Legislation

 

Budget Control Act of 2011 Official Summary Bill Text
Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010 (Debt Increase) Official Summary Bill Text
Statutory Debt Increase Official Summary Bill Text
American Recovery and Reinvesment Act of 2009 Official Summary Bill Text
Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 (TARP) Official Summary Bill Text
Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (Bush Stimulus) Official Summary Bill Text
Statutory Debt Increase Official Summary Bill Text
Budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2006 Official Summary Bill Text
Statutory Debt Increase Official Summary Bill Text
 Statutory Debt Increase Official Summary Bill Text
 Statutory Debt Increase Official Summary Bill Text
Balanced Budget Act of 1997 Official Summary Bill Text
Statutory Debt Increase Official Summary Bill Text
Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993  Official Summary Bill Text
 Statutory Debt Increase Official Summary Bill Text
 Statutory Debt Increase Official Summary Bill Text

 

Debt Held by the Public

Each year, the federal government takes in funds from taxes, surpluses in the social security system, and revenue from the postal service. It refers to these funds as "Revenues". It then uses these funds to pay for all it's expenses, which it refers to as "Outlays." The difference between the Revenue and the Outlays is made up with bonds which the US owes as debt. It is referred to as "Debt Held by the Public" or "Public Debt." This is money that the federal government owes other entities. These entities could be companies, countries, or individuals that purchased those bonds.

The chart below shows the Revenues, Outlays, and Public Debt going back to 1990. A table shown as an appendix shows additional information going back to 1971. Note that in the late 1990's Revenues exceeded Outlays and the yearly amount leftover (referred to here as the deficit) was actually positive and the overall debt level was decreased. In recent years, increased spending and lowered Revenues has led to deficits over a trillion dollars.

 

 

The National Debt and the Debt Ceiling

Not all of the money that the federal government takes in as Revenues is meant to be spent as Outlays. Some of this money is meant to be held for a future use, but an IOU is put in is place. This is the case with surpluses in the social security system. The total national debt is the combination of the public debt, described above as the difference between the total revenues and total outlays, and the intragovernmental holdings. Intragovernmental holdings are debt amounts representing U.S. Treasury securities held in accounts which are administered by the United States Government. This is debt that the federal government owes itself. The most common form of this type of debt is when the government uses the social security surpluses to fund the yearly functions. 

So the National debt is a combination of the debt owed to entities separate from the US government (Public debt) and debt owed to entities within the US government (Intragovernmental Holdings).

The chart below shows the combined total of the Public Debt and the Intragovermental holdings in relation to the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is the maximum amount of money that the federal government can legally owe at any given time. Legislation is required to increase this amount. 

 

Debt Ceiling Increases

Since 1990, the debt ceiling has been raised 15 times by Congress. Most of these increases were permanent, with a temporary extension in 1993. The debt ceiling as of April 2011 was $14.294 trillion. If no action is taken, another increase to the debt ceiling will be needed in 2011. Many newly elected representatives have stated their hesitance to vote in favor of this increase. 

Although Congress has often passed legislation to specifically increase the debt limit, it often includes raising this limit within other legislation. This was done with the Stimulus and the TARP legislation. The following chart and list show the increases to the debt ceiling and the legislation that was used pass those increases.

Public Law 112-25 - Budget Control Act of 2011

Hailed as the great compromise of 2011, Republicans and Democrats came together to raise the debt ceiling over 2 trillion dollars, and create a super committee to oversee budget cuts. The law was signed just before the US surpassed it's debt limit. It passed the House in roll call 690 by a margin of 269-161. The next day, it passed the Senate in roll call 123 by a margin of 74-126.

Public Law 111-139 - Debt ceiling increase to $14.294 trillion

On February 12, 2010 public law 111-139 was enacted for the purposes of addressing PAYGO rules and increasing the statutory limit on federal debt to $14.294 trillion. In the House, the legislation passed in roll call 48 in 2010. The Senate passed the measure in roll call 14 in 2010.

Public Law 111-123 - Debt ceiling increase to $12.394 trillion

On December 28, 2009 public law 111-123 was enacted to allow the federal government to continue operating by increasing the debt ceiling to $12.394 trillion. The House passed this legislation in roll call 988 in 2009. The Senate passed the legislation in roll call 397 in 2009.

Public Law 111-5 - Stimulus - Debt ceiling increase to $12.104 trillion

On February 17, 2009 public law 111-5 was enacted. This legislation was otherwise known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or "The Stimulus." Within that legislation was language to increase the statutory limit of the debt to $12.104 trillion (31 USC 3101. SEC 1604). The Senate passed the stimulus in roll call 61 in 2009. The House passed the legislation in an appropriations bill in roll cal 46 in 2009.

Public Law 110-343 - TARP - Debt ceiling increase to $11.315 trillion

On October 3, 2008 public law 110-343 was enacted. This legislation was the Emergency Economic Stabilization Package - otherwise known as the Troubled Asset Relief Program or TARP or "the bailout." Within section 122, the ceiling on the national debt was increased to $11.315 trillion. The TARP legislation passed the House in roll call 681 in 2008. It passed the Senate in roll call 213 in 2008.

Public Law 110-289 - Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008

On July 29, 2008 public law 110-289 was enacted. This legislation was the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008. Within section 3083 of the legislation is language to increase the statutory limit on the public debt to $10.615 trillion. The House passed the legislation in roll call 832 in 2008. The Senate passed the legislation in roll call 96 in 2008.

Public Law 110-91 - Budget and Debt Ceiling Increase to $9.815 trillion

On September 29, 2007, public law 110-91 was enacted. This legislation was solely an increase in the debt ceiling to $9.815 trillion. The Senate passed the measure as a separate vote as roll call 354 in 2007. The House passed it as part of the budgetary legislation for that year in roll call 377 in 2007.

Public Law 109-182 - Debt Ceiling Increase to $8.965 trillion

On March 20, 2006, public law 109-182 was enacted. In the Senate, this legislation was passed on it's own in roll call 54 in 2006. In the House, the legislation was passed as part of the budget for 2005 in roll call 149 in 2005. The legislation increased the debt ceiling to $8.965 trillion.

Public Law 108-415 - Debt Ceiling Increase to $8.184 trillion

On November 19, 2004, public law 108-415 was enacted. This legislation was solely an increase to the debt ceiling and was passed separately in each chamber. The House passed it in roll call 536 in 2004. The Senate passed it in roll call 213.

Public Law 108-24 - Budget and Debt Ceiling Increase to $7.384 trillion

In May of 2003, public law 108-24 was enacted. This legislation was an increase to the national debt ceiling to $7.384 trillion. In the Senate, the legislation was passed as an open vote to increase the debt ceiling in roll call 202. In the House, the increase was passed as part of the budget for the year in roll call 141.

Public Law 107-99 -  Debt Ceiling Increase to $6.4 trillion

On June 28, 2002, public law 107-99 was signed into law. The legislation was an act solely to increase the debt ceiling to $6.4 trillion. The legislation passed the Senate in roll call 148, and passed the House in roll call 279.

Public Law 105-33 - Balanced Budget Act - Debt Ceiling Increase to $5.95 trillion

On August 5, 1997, public law 105-33 was enacted. This legislation was titled the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. The legislation originally passed the House in roll call 241 and was passed through the Senate with unanimous consent. The House then passed a conference report in roll call 345 and passed the Senate in roll call 209.

Public Law 104-121 - Debt Ceiling Increase to $5.5 trillion

On March 29, 1996, public law 104-121 was enacted. This legislation was a straight forward increase to the debt ceiling. It passed the House in roll call 102, and was unanimously passed by the Senate. 

Public Law 103-66 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 - Debt Ceiling Increase to $4.9 trillion

Public law 103-66 was enacted on August 10, 1993. This legislation was the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993. It originally passed the House in roll call 199 and the Senate on roll call 190. After the initial passage, the conference report passed the House on roll call 406 and the Senate in roll call 247.

Public Law 103-12 - Debt Ceiling Increase to $4.370 trillion

On April 6, 1993, public law 103-12 was enacted. This legislation was a temporary increase in the debt ceiling to $4.370 trillion. The legislation passed the House in roll call 133. The Senate passed the legislation unanimously with no vote.

Public Law 101-350 - Debt Ceiling Increase to $4.145 trillion

On November 5, 1990, public law 101-350 was passed. This legislation was passed through the House on August 3 in roll call 313. Only a voice vote was taken in the Senate and no record was taken.

 List of all increases

  • November 5, 1990      - Permanent increase to $4,145,000 Million
  • April 6, 1993                 - Temporary increase to $4,370,000 Million
  • August 10, 1993          - Permanent increase to $4,900,000 Million
  •  March 29, 1996          - Permanent increase to $5,500,000 Million
  • August 5, 1997            - Permanent increase to $5,950,000 Million
  • June 28, 2002             - Permanent increase to $6,400,000 Million
  • May 27, 2003              - Permanent increase to $7,384,000 Million
  • November 19, 2004   - Permanent increase to $8,184,000 Million
  • March 20, 2006          - Permanent increase to $8,965,000 Million
  • September 29, 2007 - Permanent increase to $9,815,000 Million
  • July 29, 2008              - Permanent increase to $10,615,000 Million
  • October 3, 2008         - Permanent increase to $11,315,000 Million
  • February 17, 2009     - Permanent increase to $12,104,000 Million
  • December 28, 2009  - Permanent increase to $12,394,000 Million
  • February 12, 2010     - Permanent increase to $14,294,000 Million

   

Debt by Party

The chart below shows the total national debt as a function of time, and the party in control of each chamber of Congress for that time as represented by blue or red.  It can be seen that the Republicans took control of both the House and Senate in the 1994 elections and began to balance the budget with President Clinton. This is indicated by the slope of the curve representing the national debt leveling out. When President Bush is elected, the debt begins to increase at a steady rate that continues after the Democrats win both chambers in the 2006 elections. After the election of President Obama, the slope of the curve indicating the growth of the national debt increases sharply.

 

A Balanced Budget Amendment

To address the ever-increasing levels of spending, many legislators have sought to pass an amendment to the Constitution to force the federal government to balance the budget each year. Although this legislation has not been voted on, it is introduced in each session of Congress. If a representative has sponsored or co-sponsored such legislation, 

 

Significant Votes

The votes below are considered significant for this subject. If the representative you are viewing was in office during this vote, it will appear in their profile under the Debt, Deficit, Spending, and the Size of Government tab. These votes are either on a balanced budget initiative, the passage of a budget, or an increase to the national debt.

House Votes on Debt, Deficit, Spending, and the Size of Government
YearRoll CallLegislation
1990313TO PROVIDE FOR A TEMPORARY INCREASE IN THE PUBLIC DEBT LIMIT
1993133Debt Ceiling Increase to $4.37 trillion
1996102Debt Limit Extension
1997345Balanced Budget Act - Debt Ceiling Increase to $5.95 trillion
2002279Debt Ceiling Increase to $6.4 trillion
2003141Debt Ceiling Increase to $7.384 trillion
2004536Debt Ceiling Increase to $8.184 trillion
2005149Budget - Debt Ceiling Increase to $8.965 trillion
2007832Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 - Debt Ceiling Increase to $10.615 trillion
2007377Congressional Budget - Raising the Debt Ceiling to $9.815 trillion
2008681TARP - Debt Ceiling Increase to $11.315 trillion
2009988Increasing the Debt Ceiling to $12.394 trillion
200946Stimulus - Debt Ceiling Increase to $12.104 trillion
201048Debt Ceiling Increase to $14.294 Trillion
2011858Balanced Budget Amendment
2011690Budget Control Act of 2011
2011606Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011
2011379Increasing the statutory debt limit
201120Return to 2008 Spending Levels
2012372Braun Amendment to Cut Spending
2012371Gosar Amendment to Cut Spending
2012368Polis Amendment to Cut Spending
2012346Broun Amendment to Cut Spending
2012337Flake Amendment to Cut Spending
2012336Mulvaney Amendment to Cut Spending
2012335Blackburn Amendment to Cut Spending
2012334Chabot Amendment to Cut Spending
2012329Burgess Amendment to Cut Spending
2012317McClintock Amendment to Cut Spending
2012315McClintock Amendment to Cut Spending
2012311McClintock Amendment to Cut Spending
2012310Chaffetz Amendment to Cut Spending
2012222Broun Amendment to Cut Spending
2012221Blackburn Amendment to Cut Spending
2012219Scott Amendment to Cut Spending
2012218Westmoreland Amendment to Cut Spending
2012217Flake Amendment to Cut Spending
2012211Broun Amendment to Cut Spending
2012209Harris Amendment to Cut Spending
2012208Quayle Amendment to Cut Spending
2012207Pompeo Amendment to Cut Spending
2012206Scalise Amendment to Cut Spending
2012204McClintock Amendment to Cut Spending
2012203Broun Amendment to Cut Spending
  

Senate Votes on Debt, Deficit, Spending, and the Size of Government
YearRoll CallLegislation
1997209Balanced Budget Act - Debt Ceiling Increase to $5.95 trillion
2002148Debt Ceiling Increase to $6.4 trillion
2003202Debt Ceiling Increase to $7.384 trillion
2004213Debt Ceiling Increase to $8.184 trillion
200654Debt Ceiling Increase to $8.965 trillion
2007354Increasing the debt ceiling to $9.815 trillion
200896Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 - Debt Ceiling Increase to $10.615 trillion
2008213TARP - Debt Ceiling Increase to $11.315 trillion
200961Stimulus - Debt Ceiling Increase to $12.104 trillion
2009397Increasing the Debt Ceiling to $12.394 trillion
201014Increasing the Debt Ceiling to $14.294 Trillion
2011123Budget Control Act of 2011
2011116Cut, Cap, and Balance Act of 2011

 

Additional Legislation

Each year, there are numerous bills introduced that are not voted on in the House or Senate. These bills may be sponsored by numerous people and a representative's co-sponsorship of that legislation gives insight into that person's viewpoints.

Senate Bills on Debt, Deficit, Spending, and the Size of Government
SessionBill NumberCo-SponsorsBill Title
112S 102537Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act of 2011
112S 25116A bill to prohibit the provision of Federal funds to State and local governments for payment of obligations
112S 36019To reduce the deficit by establishing discretionary spending caps for non-security spending.
112S 134037Cut, Cap, and Balance
111S 8971Limitation on Government Spending Act of 2009
111S 1015Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2009
111S 293828Erasing our National Debt Through Accountability and Responsibility Plan Act of 2010
111S 347426Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act of 2010
111S J Res 2716Constitutional Amendment - Balanced Budget
110S J Res 243Constitutional Amendment - Balanced Budget
110S 216626Jubilee Act for Responsible Lending and Expanded Debt Cancellation of 2008
110S 1526Stop Over Spending Act of 2007
110S 207018Government Shutdown Prevention Act
109S 85118Fiscal Responsibility for a Sound Future Act
105S J Res 161Constitutional Amendment - Balanced Budget
105S 26137Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act
104S J Res 146Constitutional Amendment - Balanced Budget
104S 2083Right to Know Act
 

House Bills on Debt, Deficit, Spending, and the Size of Government
SessionBill NumberCo-SponsorsBill Title
112H R 930To make 10 percent across-the-board rescissions in non-defense, non-homeland-security, and non-veterans-affairs discretionary spending for each of the fiscal years 2011 and 2012.
112H R 940To make 5 percent across-the-board rescissions in non-defense, non-homeland-security, and non-veterans-affairs discretionary spending for each of the fiscal years 2011 and 2012
112H R 950To make 15 percent across-the-board rescissions in non-defense, non-homeland-security, and non-veterans-affairs discretionary spending for each of the fiscal years 2011 and 2012
112H R 1556Government Reform Act of 2011
112H R 1880Government Spending Responsibility Act
112H R 41315Defense and Deficit Reduction Act
112H R 42168Full Faith and Credit Act
112H J Res 1121Proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States
112H J Res 2204Proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States
112H J Res 42Proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution of the United States
112H J Res 52Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to control spending
112H J Res 1116Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to balance the Federal budget
112H R 2560118Cut, Cap, and Balance
111H J Res 1147Constitutional Amendment - Balanced Budget
111H J Res 1147Constitutional Amendment - Balanced Budget
111H R 2920158Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2009
111H R 426285CAP the DEBT Act
111H Res 94955Statutory Limit on Public Debt
111H J Res 7953Constitutional Amendment - Balanced Budget
111H R 487148Spending Reduction Act of 2010
111H R 500843Targeted Deficit Reduction Act of 2010
111H J Res780Constitutional Amendment - Balanced Budget
111H R 314034Reducing Barack Obama's Unsustainable Deficit Act
111H J Res 739Balanced Budget Amendment
110H J Res 1164Constitutional Amendment - Balanced Budget
110H R 268652Budget Enforcement and Accountability Act of 2007
109H J Res 2230Constitutional Amendment - Balanced Budget
108H J Res 22133Constitutional Amendment - Balanced Budget

 

Public Debt back to 1970