- The Washington Times - Friday, November 19, 2004

The House voted last night to add $800 billion to the national debt, allowing the U.S. Treasury to borrow additional money to finance the budget for the 2005 fiscal year, bringing the total national debt to $8.184 trillion.

Republicans called the increase a necessity, but Democrats saw an opening for an attack. After visceral statements from liberals often tagged as “tax-and-spend” in the chamber and mild retorts by Republicans, the House voted mostly along party lines to raise the debt limit.

“We must fulfill our obligations to the American people, to our children, men and women of the armed services and our seniors,” said Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds, New York Republican.

The measure passed on a 208-204 vote. Republicans provided all 208 votes in favor, with the opposing votes coming from 193 Democrats, 10 Republicans, and the House’s one Democrat-leaning independent. Nine Republicans and 12 Democrats did not vote.

The nation has never reneged on its international debts, but the figure now is higher than under any other president, one Republican staffer said.

Republican lawmakers were reluctant to address the issue, remembering a time not long ago when Republicans fought Democrats’ increases to the national debt.

Mr. Reynolds yielded almost no time to fellow members on the floor while managing the rules for debate yesterday morning.

“While the last three years of deficits are unwelcome, the economy is strengthening and further improvement is expected if we stick to the president’s plan of economic growth and spending discipline,” a Republican policy staffer said.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that more than 80 percent of the deterioration in its budget projections since 2001 has been a result of the recession that year, and increased spending for homeland security and the war on terror.

“And just since July we have seen deficit estimate reductions of $32 billion thanks to the Bush tax cuts, which have allowed us to move more quickly out of the recession,” Mr. Reynolds said.

The Senate voted 52-44 in a mostly party-line vote Wednesday to increase the debt with one Republican voting against the increase and one Democrat voting for it.

In both houses, Democrats claimed that theirs was now the party of fiscal responsibility and hammered at Republicans. Rep. Charles B. Rangel, New York Democrat, called the vote immoral.

He compared the increase in government debt to an open-ended credit account that the borrower never repays. “He wouldn’t have to say what he was spending on. He wouldn’t have to say what he was doing to get himself under control. And he never has to pay it back because the bill will be sent to his children and grandchildren. That is what the Republicans are doing today,” he said.

Democrats had asked House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, to insert the pay-as-you-go, or “pay-go,” rules as part of the debt measure. The pay-go rule, which was instituted by Congress in 1990 and expired in 2000, requires any budget increases to be offset by new revenue sources or program cuts.

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