CNS News and the Media Research Center climb into the Wayback Machine and travel to January 4, 2007, Nancy Pelosi’s first day as Speaker of the House, to recall this gem of a political promise. After years of overspending by Republicans, Democrats had run on a platform of fiscal responsibility and taken control of both chambers of Congress in the 2006 midterm elections. Pelosi started off the 110th Session of Congress by declaring an end to deficit spending:
“After years of historic deficits, this 110th Congress will commit itself to a higher standard: Pay as you go, no new deficit spending,” Pelosi said in her speech from the speaker’s podium. “Our new America will provide unlimited opportunity for future generations, not burden them with mountains of debt.”
Pelosi has served as speaker in the 110th and 111th Congresses.
At the close of business on Jan. 4, 2007, Pelosi’s first day as speaker, the national debt was $8,670,596,242,973.04 (8.67 trillion), according to the Bureau of the Public Debt, a division of the U.S. Treasury Department. At the close of business on Oct. 22, it stood at $13,667,983,325,978.31 (13.67 trillion), an increase of 4,997,387,083,005.27 (or approximately $5 trillion).
Pelosi, the 60th speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, has added more to the national debt than the first 57 House speakers combined.
The $4.997-trillion increase in the national debt since she took the gavel is more debt than the federal government amassed from the speakership of Rep. Frederick Muhlenberg of Pennsylvania, who became the first speaker of the House on April 1, 1789, to the start of the speakership of Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, the 58th speaker, who took up the gavel on Jan. 4, 1995.
The national debt first topped $5 trillion on Feb. 23, 1996, more than a year into Gingrich’s speakership.
Gingrich served as speaker in the 104th and 105th Congresses, officially taking the office on Jan. 4, 1995 and leaving office on Jan. 3, 1999. During that period, according to the Treasury Department, the national debt increased $812.4 billion dollars ($812,423,595,162.98), rising from $4.8 trillion ($4,801,793,426,032.89) to $5.6 trillion ($5,614,217,021,195.87).
Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), the 59th speaker, who presided over the 106th, 107th, 108th and 109th Congresses (serving as speaker from Jan. 6, 1999 to Jan. 3, 2007), enjoys the distinction of having increased the debt more than any other speaker except Pelosi. During Hastert’s time, the national debt increased $3.1 trillion ($3,061,785,703,851.74).
Thus far (the 111th Congress will not be done until the end of the year), Pelosi has increased the debt by an average of $2.5 trillion for each Congress she has led as speaker. Hastert increased the debt by an average of about $785 billion per Congress, while Gingrich increased the debt by an average of $406 billion per Congress.
Under the U.S. Constitution, the federal government cannot spend any money that has not been approved by congressional appropriations; and, by congressional precedent, appropriations bills originate in the House.
“No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law,” says Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution.
“By precedent, appropriations originate in the House, with the Senate following suit,” says the House Rules Committee in an explanation of the appropriations process.
Annual federal expenditures have increased by about $730 billion in the Pelosi era, while annual deficits have increased almost 8 fold. In fiscal 2007, when Pelosi became speaker, the federal government spent $2.73 trillion and ran an annual deficit of $162.8 billion, according to the Treasury Department. In fiscal 2009, the federal government spent $3.52 trillion and ran an annual deficit of $1.4157 trillion. In fiscal 2010, the federal government spent $3.46 trillion and ran an annual deficit of $1.2941 trillion.
Democrats will often blame this on the continued existence of the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003. However, the CBO reckons that the federal government will only get $4 trillion over the next ten years if all of the Bush tax cuts expire, as they are set to do on December 31 of this year. That ten-year revenue (which is itself highly debatable) still wouldn’t have covered all of the deficit spending Democrats did while in control of Congress in just four years. In fact, at their rate of deficit spending in three budget cycles, Democrats would add almost $15 trillion to the national debt in ten years:
Republicans in control for 12 years: Added $4.034 trillion (avg $336.17 billion per year)
Republicans in control during Bush era: Added $3.201 trillion (avg $533.5 billion per year)
Democrats in control of Congress during Bush/Obama era: Added $4.603 trillion (avg 1.48 trillion per year)
Democrats did not aim to control spending when they took control of Congress. They aimed to expand government at a historic rate, and they succeeded beyond even their wildest dreams. And what happened when Democrats finally got around to passing pay-go, more than three years later? They made more exceptions to it than bills that actually got the pay-go treatment.
This is exactly why voters can’t trust Democrats on spending, deficits, and taxes.
To those that point to the Hastert years, and reprimanding, ask where the Tea Party-type/fiscal hawks were then — they were at the voting booth. When their elected representatives acted irresponsibly, the electorate called them on it.
A quick glance at the headline and data above, and one can’t possibly be surprised that this may be the shortest-lived House majority in fifty-five years.