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January 17, 2013


How Congress Created the Debt Ceiling Problem

Josh Green points out that in 1979, Dick Gephardt, "who would later become House Democratic leader and twice run for president, devised a simple fix that met the absurd requirement of a two-step process. With help from the House parliamentarian, he established the Gephardt Rule, which decreed that when Congress adopted a budget resolution (the first step) it was automatically 'deemed to have passed' a commensurate increase in the debt limit (the second step). Presto. Problem solved."

"The Gephardt Rule held for a decade and a half, during which there were no fights over raising the debt ceiling. But when Republicans took control of the House in 1995, they killed it... Gingrich thought the second vote was a good pressure tactic to limit spending. Yet the threat of debt default didn't work because nobody took it seriously. What's different now is that many Republicans seem willing to follow through. Even Gingrich is worried."












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