News Releases

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Isakson: Debt Limit Debate Provides Opportunity for Change

Reintroduces legislation to force spending cuts equal to the amount of debt ceiling increases

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today reintroduced legislation that would allow Congress to raise the nation’s debt limit only if it simultaneously cuts spending by an equal dollar amount.

Under the Dollar-for-Dollar Deficit Reduction Act, S.2002, reductions in spending would take place over a 10-year period, and the resulting lower interest payments on the debt would continue the savings beyond the 10-year period.

“Our federal debt level is unsustainable and rising, and we will again soon face the challenge of raising the federal debt ceiling to avoid defaulting on our nation’s legal obligations,” said Isakson. “I’ve joined with colleagues to include this commonsense legislation in our debate to force Washington to thoroughly review its spending habits and find matching savings when raising the debt limit. Our long-term economic health and the futures of our children and grandchildren demand that we get our fiscal house in order.”

The legislation is being reintroduced as the federal debt approaches the current limit. Under current law, debt held by the public is projected to increase from 78% of gross domestic product (GDP), which today is already nearly double the average of the past 50 years, to 144% of GDP by 2049.

Historically, debates on the debt limit have provided Congress with an opportunity to make key policy changes that help rein in the national debt. Most recently, the Budget Control Act of 2011, estimated to save $1.9 trillion over the decade, was linked to debate on the debt limit.

Specifically, the Dollar-for-Dollar Deficit Reduction Act would make the “dollar-for-dollar” rule a permanent debt-limit policy to ensure that any increase in the debt limit corresponds with spending cuts. In addition, the bill would:

  • Require the U.S. Treasury secretary to notify Congress 60 calendar days before the debt limit is to be reached and extraordinary measures undertaken; 
  • Require that any presidential request to raise the debt limit be accompanied by a proposal to cut non-interest spending by an equal or greater amount over the next decade;
  • Require that any legislation to increase the debt limit include non-interest spending cuts of an equal or greater amount over the next decade, subject to a point of order;
  • Prohibit the use of timing shifts and expiring emergency spending to reach the spending savings target;
  • Require spending cuts of more than $3.5 trillion over the next decade, if Congress were to increase or suspend the limit annually; and
  • Cut the projected deficit by more than two-thirds by 2029.

The legislation was introduced by U.S. Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and in addition to Isakson, was cosponsored by Sens. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.

Isakson is committed to working to pass legislation to curb federal spending and to demand more accountability from programs that receive federal dollars. His biennial budgeting legislation, introduced again in January, is making progress. Isakson’s bipartisan Biennial Budgeting and Appropriations Act would help end reckless spending and reform the federal budget process by converting it from an annual spending process to a two-year cycle, with one year for appropriating federal dollars and the other year devoted to much-needed oversight of federal programs.