Representative Don Beyer (D-VA), Chairman of the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, led the floor debate for House Democrats on legislation to increase the debt limit. Below are his remarks as prepared.
“I am pleased that with today’s vote, the House is finally taking action to protect our nation's full faith and credit.
“Today's vote should be simple. The United States must be a nation that pays its bills. Period. But instead of taking timely action, we wasted valuable time—time that should be focused on addressing the real problems facing our nation—and sewed uncertainty in the markets, just as our economy, fragile in the wake of the pandemic, is recovering.
“Without today’s action, for the first time in our history, the United States government could default on its debt obligations because of the debt limit. This would be ruinous for U.S. workers and families. It would trigger a financial crisis on par with that of 2008, resulting in catastrophic economic damage with millions of jobs lost, businesses shuttered and a banking system in chaos.
“At a time when our recovery is strong but uncertain, at risk here are 6 million jobs, an unemployment rate of nearly 9%, the elimination of $15 trillion in household wealth and a decline in real GDP of 4%. Nonpartisan Moody’s Analytics economist Mark Zandi?predicted that following a default, a global market panic on the scale of the 2008 financial crisis would ensue. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon?predicted that such a default ‘could cause an immediate, literally cascading catastrophe of unbelievable proportions and?damage America for 100 years.’
“Were the United States to default, it would likely prompt a lasting downgrade of the country’s credit that would drastically increase costs for mortgages, car loans, student loans, credit card bills and other borrowing. This would threaten the livelihoods of the very people we are here to represent.
“Raising the debt ceiling is not about incurring new debts but rather enabling the federal government to keep its existing commitments. By raising the debt limit, we are meeting our existing obligations to members of the military, veterans and recipients of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.
“In fact, 97% of the debts currently necessitating an increase were accrued prior to the Biden administration, many of which were passed with bipartisan support. This includes emergency pandemic relief measures, increased defense spending and continued government operations.
“The time to act is now. Treasury Secretary Yellen has issued a dire warning: While she is confident the Treasury Department will be able to meet its financial obligations through December 15, without Congressional action by tomorrow, the government could be left with insufficient funds to finance government operations.
“Over 50 million seniors could stop receiving Social Security checks for a time. Troops could go unpaid. Millions of families who rely on the monthly child tax credit could see delays. Our current economic recovery would reverse into recession, with billions of dollars of growth and millions of jobs lost.
“As the 2011 debt ceiling crisis shows, even narrowly avoiding a default costs the country billions of dollars. While raising the debt ceiling does not, on its own, create new debts for the United States government, a failure to do so certainly would.
“Congress has addressed the debt limit 79 times since 1960 to prevent default—30 times with a Democrat in the White House, and 49 times under a Republican president. In fact, under President Trump, Congress took action to address the debt limit three times and did so without drama. Today’s action should be no different.
“I urge my colleagues to vote with me to lift the debt ceiling, continue paying our bills and ensure our continued economic recovery.”