NAICU Washington Update

Debt Ceiling Increases

February 10, 2010

Congress has sent the President H.J. Res. 45, which increases the debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion, and reinstates statutory pay-as-you-go (PAYGO) requirements on entitlement spending.  It is estimated that this increase in the debt limit, passed on February 4, will enable the U. S. government to continue borrowing to cover expenses through the rest of 2010.

The PAYGO amendment adds an additional layer of score-keeping to the legislative process to ensure that entitlement legislation does not further increase the deficit each year.  The amendment also exempts the Pell Grant program from sequestration -- a form of automatic spending cutbacks.  That's a first, and another indicator of the value Washington now puts on student aid, along with other programs for low-income individuals, should Congress fail to balance the PAYGO "scorecard" at the end of each session.

The floor debate on the debt ceiling and the PAYGO amendment vacillated between the arcane and the partisan. However, it clearly signaled that annual federal budget deficits and cumulative national debt have risen to the top of the hot-issues list.  The renewed interest in the debt will have an impact on advocacy for student aid funding, even though post-secondary education is considered key to job creation.

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