Sunday, July 24, 2011

Time Machine: The Debt Ceiling

A little while ago, Joshua Green outlined how Congress dealt with the debt ceiling during the Reagan, Bush, and early Clinton years:
Gephardt realized that the easiest way to fix the problem and impose some rationality on the process, was to do away with the second vote. He consulted the parliamentarian. "I asked if there was a way that when we pass the budget [the debt ceiling] can be deemed 'raised' to accommodate the budget people are voting for," Gephardt said. "He said, 'Yeah, we think we can work that out.'"

Thus was born the "Gephardt rule." For a period thereafter, the adoption of the conference report on the budget resolution would trigger the Gephardt rule and "deem to have passed" legislation raising the debt limit to accommodate the spending and revenue levels approved in the budget. Presto! Problem solved.
A Congress dominated by resurgent Republicans scrapped this rule in 1995.

(H/T: David Frum)

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