House Democratic leaders said Tuesday that they would try to hold Republicans more accountable for annual federal deficits in the hundreds of billions of dollars, starting with a vote on raising the $7.4-trillion debt ceiling.
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said that when Congress returned next week for a lame duck session, Democrats would highlight the $2.1-trillion increase in the legal limit on the national debt under the Bush administration.
“The president won’t be able to blame anybody” for this and other problems, Pelosi said. “Because the Republicans have full control.”
Rep. John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina, the top Democrat on the Budget Committee, said Democrats wanted an open debate on a free-standing bill to raise the statutory debt ceiling, now at $7.4 trillion, by $650 billion. Democrats, he said, would support an amendment enforcing a policy requiring that all new spending or tax cut measures be paid for.
They’re unlikely to get their wish, with the GOP leadership expected to avoid a direct vote by adding the debt limit increase to a massive spending bill for the 2005 budget year that Congress must deal with before ending the current session. Congress must act by Nov. 18 so the Treasury can continue borrowing.
The government’s red ink has resumed growing rapidly after a lull that accompanied the four annual surpluses of the late 1990s. When the government runs an annual deficit, which hit a record $413 billion in fiscal 2004, it must borrow to finance its operations, driving its accumulated debt higher.