U.S. Senate debates raising national debt ceiling

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Monday, March 13, 2006

The U.S. Senate is debating the 2007 budget this week, dealing with, among many things, controversial issues such as the oil drilling in Alaska, raising the national debt ceiling, and an amendment that would fund $1.5 million dollars to veterans' health-care. The Senate is also considering budget measures over an amendment that would increase funding for local and state law enforcement to combat methamphetamine.

The national debt ceiling is supposed to prevent the U.S. public debt from growing to excessive amounts. If the national debt grows to reach beyond a previously budgeted ceiling level, branches of government are shut down and provide only limited services. The shut down force a reduction in spending. The measure is meant to prevent excessive amounts of national debt from occurring. Rather than letting the level of national debt approach that ceiling, it is typical practice within the U.S. Congress to raise the national debt ceiling annually.

The $781 billion increase asked for this year is the fourth hike request in the last five years. Bush administration budgets have pushed debt ceiling increase request to a level of 46% higher over five years, a $3 trillion increase.

Senator Judd Gregg, Budget Committee Chairman, argued in favor of increasing the ceiling, citing growths in the economy under the Bush administration. Kent Conrad, ranking Democrat member of the Budget Committee, rebutted that the economy has not been recovering as well as it has been after World War II and six other similar recovery periods, and that the economic period after World War II averaged 3.2% in growth.

A "PAYGO" amendment by Conrad Burns would have required offsetts for any new spending beyond the original resolution. It failed, needing 51 votes, but receiving 50. Lincoln Chafee's amendment would increase funding by $2 billion for the Americans with Disabilities Act.

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