Next week Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is expected to attach a provision to the Department of Defense appropriations bill that would increase our national debt limit by $1.925 trillion. This debt limit raise would authorize the U.S. Treasury to borrow as much as $14 trillion, which is 30% higher than the $10.8 trillion limit that was in place when President Barack Obama took office.

Defending the unprecedented size of the debt limit, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) told The Examiner: “There is no doubt the debt ceiling will have to be at that level in order to meet our financial obligations at this time next year. This is not creating new debt.” Not creating new debt? Hoyer speaks as though he and his Speaker are completely powerless to control all the federal spending that is driving up “our financial obligations.” In fact, Hoyer’s statement comes on the same day that he and Speaker Pelosi forced through a $447 billion “minibus” spending bill that every single Republican and 28 Democrats voted against. Filled with 5,224 earmarks, this merged appropriations bill provides an 8% hike in discretionary spending for the third consecutive year since Pelosi took over Congress in 2007. Altogether, discretionary spending has jumped 25% since Speaker Pelosi took the gavel, and Congressional Democrats have spent $561 billion more in discretionary spending than if they had limited federal spending growth to the baseline inflation rate. Despite a $1.4 trillion deficit, appropriations bills passed this year have included:

  • A 67% increase for the Environmental Protection Agency’s State and Tribal Assistance Grants;
  • A 30% increase for the Corporation for National and Community Service;
  • A 9% increase for Amtrak;
  • An 8.4% increase for Lawmakers’ Office Allowances; and
  • An 8.1% increase for the National Endowment for the Arts.

This is not the budgeting of a Congress even minimally serious about the budget deficit. And each large annual discretionary spending increase becomes part of the permanent discretionary spending baseline. In fact, the steep increases over the past three years have added $1.7 trillion to the 2011-2020 discretionary spending baseline – nearly $1,500 per household annually. In the past year, Pelosi’s House has passed a $700 billion financial bailout and a trillion dollar stimulus, a $1.5 trillion health care expansion, a $200 billion Medicare “doc fix,” and an $800 billion cap-and-trade bill. There is no increase to domestic federal spending that Speaker Pelosi can say “no” to.

It is far past time for responsible leaders in Congress to rein in Pelosi’s profligacy. At a bare minimum, lawmakers should demand that any debt-limit increase also statutorily cap discretionary spending growth at the inflation rate (approximately 2.5 percent annually) for the next decade. Even better, a return to federal spending levels of just a decade ago could go a long way towards solving our debt problem. Heritage’s Brian Riedl explains:

In the 1980s and 1990s, Washington consistently spent $21,000 per household (adjusted for inflation). Simply returning to that level would balance the budget by 2012 without any tax hikes. Alternatively, returning to the $25,000 per household level (adjusted for inflation) that Washington spent before the current recession would likely balance the budget by 2019 without any tax hikes.

Quick Hits:

  • Speaker Pelosi said she “would do almost anything” to get Obamacare passed before Christmas.
  • According to a USA TODAY analysis, while the private sector has shed 7.3 million jobs, the number of federal government workers earning six-figure salaries has exploded during the recession.
  • According to The New York Times, Americans who buy the same health benefits as members of Congress, or buy coverage through Medicare, will have to fork over a large chunk of cash under the latest Senate Democrat health plan.
  • The Washington Examiner reports that only one fourth of AARP revenues come from membership dues, while the rest come from selling AARP’s name to businesses, including businesses that would benefit from Obamacare, which the AARP has endorsed.
  • According to a new report, climate change criminals have pocketed almost 5 billion Euros by manipulating Europe’s carbon trading “market.”