For much of American history, our Congress has imposed upon itself a statutory debt ceiling. This legislation was intended to tie the government’s hands and prevent it from taking on more debt than it should. Of course, the strange part of this arrangement is that the same Congress that sets the limit also sets the budget, and often sets a budget that blows right through the limit…because that makes sense.
After the contentious debates over the debt ceiling in 2011 and 2013, the former leading to a downgrade of our national S&P credit rating, it was decided to just sweep the debt ceiling under the rug with legislative sleight of hand. The last actual change to the statutory ceiling was in 2011, when 31 USC §3101 was amended to set the limit at the low, low price of $14,294,000,000,000.00.
Of course, even though that’s still the limit according to the United States Code, our current debt is about $22,168,000,000,000.00 (USDebtClock.org). But what’s seven trillion dollars among friends?
How did Congress manage this? Well, it gave itself an out, stating that the statutory limit is “subject to changes periodically made in that amount as provided by law through the congressional budget process described in Rule XLIX.” And if that wasn’t enough, in January 2019 the Congress instated a rule that would automatically raise the debt ceiling — with no discussion or debate — whenever Congress passes a budget that would exceed it.
What’s the point of having a debt ceiling if we’re just going to change it every time we get close to breaking it?
I think twenty-two trillion dollars in debt is more than enough. I will veto any bill that comes across my desk that would raise the limit even one cent higher (except during a national emergency or war), and I will also veto any budget that would exceed the current limit.