Congress struggles to increase debt ceiling

If the U.S. Treasury wanted to borrow money about 100 years ago, it most likely would have been approved by Congress. The same cannot be said today. 

According to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Congress passed the first aggregate debt limit in 1939. This set the debt ceiling at $45 billion, which was about 10% above the total debt at the time. 

A debt ceiling is the limit of money that the government can borrow, according to the U.S. Treasury.

Currently, the U.S. Treasury is looking to raise the debt ceiling for the 95th time since 1944, according to the Guardian. However, this time raising the debt ceiling has been difficult to pass through Congress due to lack of Republican support. 

According to CNN, Republican Congress members think raising the debt ceiling to the proposed amount of $3.5 trillion is too much. They feel a more appropriate amount is $1.5 trillion. 

As of last week, the Senate approved a temporary increase to the debt ceiling, which lifted it to $28.9 trillion, according to Reuters. 

Without the temporary increase, the government would have been forced to shut down. 

Jennifer Dumas, an assistant political science professor, said a government shutdown could affect a lot of people. 

“You might see federal workers not getting paid, you might see social security checks not going out [and you might see] veteran’s benefits not going out,” Dumas said. 

Even though the debt ceiling was temporarily raised, Congress only has until December to decide if they will permanently raise it, according to Reuters. 

However, even if it is raised now, it will need to be raised again in the near future. 

According to the Associated Press, under former President Trump, the debt ceiling was raised three times. 

Many people want the debt ceiling to be eliminated to avoid this problem again, according to NBC News. 

Joshua Stockley, the political science coordinator, said the initial idea of having a debt ceiling was to control government spending but this is not possible when Congress increases the limit overtime. 

“Eliminating the debt ceiling is the only way to stop this cycle,” Stockley said.