House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) contends that linking an increase in the debt limit to budget deals is routine. In fact, such linkage is the exception -- not the rule.
In a fact sheet, Boehner mentions seven debt-limit increases during the Reagan, Bush 41, and Clinton years that included other budget-related measures. Boehner fails to say, however, that since President Reagan was inaugurated, Congress has enacted 45 different pieces of legislation raising the debt limit. The vast majority of them were not connected to major budget deals.
- Two of the examples -- the 1985 and 1987 Gramm-Rudman-Hollings laws -- proved largely ineffective for various reasons. Those laws achieved very little real deficit reduction. (See Appendix A here.)
- Two other bills on the Speaker's list -- debt-ceiling increases in 1989 and 1996 -- reduced spending minimally or actually increased the deficit.
- Republicans strongly opposed two more of the laws -- the Budget Enforcement Act of 1990 and the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993 -- because they raised taxes. Almost three-quarters of House Republicans voted against the 1990 legislation, and House and Senate Republicans unanimously opposed the 1993 law.
So, despite what the Speaker argues, linking budget deals to debt limit legislation is not routine.