WASHINGTON, DC – The Republican-controlled House of Representatives, which took office in January 2011, has enacted federal spending bills under which the national debt has increased more in less than one term of Congress than in the first 97 Congresses combined.
In the fifteen months that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives–led by Speaker John Boehner–has effectively enjoyed a constitutional veto over federal spending, the federal government’s debt has increased by about $1.59 trillion.
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution says: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” A law appropriating money cannot be enacted unless it is approved by the House.
The approximately $1.59 trillion in new debt accumulated since the Republican-controlled House gained a veto over federal spending legislation is more than the total increase in the federal debt between 1789, when the first Congress convened, and October 1984, when the 98th Congress was nearing the end of its second session.
Rep. Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania served as speaker in the first Congress. Rep. Tip O’Neill of Massachusetts served his third term as speaker in the 98th Congress.
When Boehner became speaker on Jan. 5, 2011, the federal government was operating under a continuing resolution that had been passed on Dec. 21, 2010 by a lame-duck Congress. That CR expired on March 4, 2011.
On March 1, 2011, Boehner agreed to a new short-term spending deal with President Barack Obama and Democratic congressional leaders to keep the government running past the March 4, 2011 expiration of the old CR. Since March 4, 2011, federal expenditures have been carried out under a series of CRs approved by both the Republican-controlled House and the Democrat-controlled Senate and signed into law by President Obama.
At the close of business on March 4, 2011, the total federal debt was $14,182,627,184,881.03, according to the Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Public Debt. At the close of business on May 31, 2012, it was 15,770,685,085,364.14. That is an increase of $1,588,057,900,483.11—in just 15 months.
All of the debt accumulated by the federal government throughout the history of the country did not exceed $1.588 trillion until October 1984.
Under the Republican-controlled House, the federal debt has been increasing at an average pace of about $105.9 billion per month.
Frederick Muhlenberg served two non-consecutive terms as speaker–in the first and third Congresses. At the end of the first Congress, in 1791, the total debt of the federal government was about $75.5 million, according to the U.S. Treasury.
Tip O’Neill served as speaker in the 95th through 99th Congresses, from 1977 through 1986.
At the end of September 1984, during the 98th Congress, the total national debt was approximately $1,572,266,000,000.00, according to the Treasury Department’s Monthly Statement of the Public Debt for that month. At the end of October 1984, it was $1,611,537,000,000.00, according to the Monthly Statement of the Public Debt.