Speeches and Floor Statements

Chairman Beyer Urges Abolition Of Debt Ceiling During House Debate

October 12, 2021 (Washington, D.C.) – Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), Chairman of Congress’ Joint Economic Committee, today urged his colleagues to raise the debt limit and avoid a catastrophic default during debate on the House Floor, and expressed his support for subsequently abolishing the debt ceiling.

The Joint Economic Committee recently issued a new report on the debt limit and the possible consequences of a default, stating that “breaching the debt ceiling and defaulting on federal debt would cause an economic catastrophe,” felt by most Americans, potentially resulting in a new recession and the loss of millions of jobs.

Beyer is a cosponsor of legislation to permanently eliminate the debt ceiling. Beyer’s remarks, as prepared:

Madam Speaker, I rise in support of legislation to pay America’s debt and avoid a catastrophic default.

Raising the debt ceiling does not incur new debts, it simply allows the Treasury Department to continue paying the debts that Congress already voted to incur.

97 percent of the debt subject to the current increase was passed before President Biden took office.

The big drivers of this debt limit increase were CARES Act programs we all supported, higher defense spending under the previous president, and enormous Republican tax cuts that were not paid for which mostly went to the wealthy.

Since 1960, Congress raised the debt ceiling 78 times, mostly when a Republican was in the White House. This has always been a bipartisan vote in the past.

It should be a bipartisan vote now, because the simple fact is that if Congress failed to raise the debt ceiling it would mean we refuse to pay our debts, and that would lead to default.

Defaulting on our debt, according to nonpartisan analysis, would wreck the economy and cause a financial crisis on the level of the Great Recession.

Millions of Americans would lose their jobs, and the unemployment rate would shoot upwards.

Payments would be halted for Social Security recipients, veterans, and hospitals that take Medicare and Medicaid.

Our federal workforce and our troops wouldn’t get paid.

Trillions of dollars in household wealth would be wiped out, and ordinary Americans would see interest rates go up on their mortgages, car payments, student loans, and credit cards.

It could take decades to recover from the impact of a default.

Our credit rating would also be downgraded, and we would see a big increase in borrowing costs, which means that a default would actually grow our budget deficit and increase the national debt.

Even a near-miss on a debt ceiling breach could cost the government money.

Ten years ago GAO said the U.S. had to pay an extra 1.3 billion dollars in borrowing costs because of debt limit brinkmanship.

These are some of the many reasons why it makes no sense to vote against raising the debt ceiling.

If you want to address the debt, the obvious way to do it is to pay for your spending.

That’s exactly what Democrats are doing with the Build Back Better Act, where my colleagues and I spent tons of time figuring out how to pay for these investments.

It’s pretty ridiculous for the party that claimed a two trillion dollar handout to the wealthy would “pay for itself” to complain now about debt.

But if you really worried about debt, there are ways to address it without taking a wrecking ball to the U.S. economy.

And yet all but one of my Republican colleagues voted against this twice.

Preventing a recession should have unanimous support in this body.

It is a concerning prospect that we have to do all of this again in two or three months, and Republican leaders are already promising even stronger opposition to avoiding the self-inflicted destruction of our economy.

Sooner or later if we don’t all recognize the risks and take a rational approach to governance, the worst will happen and we will default.

It may not happen this year or this presidency, but if a faction of Congress keeps taking the U.S. economy hostage it is going to end in disaster someday.

The clear long term solution here is removing the debt ceiling, which serves no constructive purpose.

Congress should abolish the debt limit.

In the meantime it is deeply important that we pass this legislation to avoid an imminent default, and I urge all of my colleagues to support it.