Majority Leader Schumer Floor Remarks On The Need To Address The Debt Limit And Avoid U.S. Default

September 13, 2021

Washington, D.C.   Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today spoke on the Senate floor regarding the need to address the debt ceiling and extend government funding, highlighting a new CRS memo demonstrating that $5.4 trillion in debt was incurred under the Trump administration after the last time the debt ceiling was suspended in 2019. Below are Senator Schumer’s remarks, which can also be viewed here:

Even as we work to deliver on our Build Back Better agenda, the House and Senate will work on other important priorities that demand immediate attention— including passing a Continuing Resolution before the September 30th expiration of government funding, providing emergency funding to help those devastated by the recent natural disasters, and helping resettle our Afghan allies and partners.

I expect all of this to be done in a bipartisan and timely way.

Of course, over the next few weeks the House and Senate must also come together to address the debt ceiling.

In America, when it’s time to pay the bills, we follow through on our obligations without exception. For a long time, addressing the debt ceiling was considered a routine and responsible step that both sides worked together to achieve.

Even when President Trump was in office, Democrats worked three times with Republicans to suspend the debt ceiling, because it was the right and obvious thing to do. We didn’t pick excuses and say here’s why we don’t want to do it. We knew it was important and it was time to lay aside differences and move it forward.

But now, unfortunately, some of our Republican colleagueseven though they were eager to have Democrats support them when President Trump was president—have reportedly contemplated a reckless idea, spearheaded by the Republican Senator from Wisconsin, to oppose any effort to raise the debt ceiling whatsoever. And unfortunately and sadly, the Republican Leader seems to be going along. 

Let me be clear: taking the debt hostage and playing games with the full faith and credit of the United States is reckless, irresponsible, and will harm every single American. It is a complete non-starter.

This is not just another political debate—it’s about honoring our unbroken commitment to pay our debts and avoiding another financial crisis at a crucial moment for our country.

Now, it’s important to remember that this is not about greenlighting future spending.

This is about paying debt from past spending, which was incurred during the Trump Administration and which received favorable votes from a majority of Republicans and Democrats.

Indeed, there is a new study that came out: according to the non-partisan Congressional Research Service, the Trump Administration incurred $5.4 trillion in new debt after the debt ceiling was raised in 2019, up through his last day of office.

So all of the new $5 trillion in debt, bottom line, was caused under the Trump Administration. Not by Democratic spending but under the Trump Administration. $5.4 trillion: from the last day the debt ceiling was raised in 2019, to the last day of Trump’s being in office.

Another report by the Treasury Department further states that over the entirety of the Trump Administration, that figure rose to as high as $8 trillion.

Again, let me repeat this, so my Republican colleagues hear it loud and clear. This is not about Democrats incurring debt.

Between the last time that the debt ceiling was raised in 2019 and the final day of the Trump Administration—nothing to do with Biden or Democrats or anything in 2021—his Administration added more than $5 trillion to the national debt.

And over the four years of Donald Trump, new debt totaled as much as $8 trillion.

So both sides, both sides, have a responsibility to pay our bills.

Both sides, led by a Republican Senate, incurred much of this new debt. Senators from both parties voted overwhelmingly in support of the many laws that contributed to this obligation. 

In the middle of the COVID pandemic, the Congress came together, when Donald Trump was president, to pass successive COVID relief laws like the CARES Act, a PPP extension, and the “908 COVID deal” in December.  Democrats and Republicans voted in huge numbers in support of these laws. Republicans voted to make these expenditures.

Now, we must come together to do the responsible thing and pay those bills. Leader McConnell assured the country in 2019 when Donald Trump was president that we’d “no doubt” raise the debt ceiling “on a bipartisan basis.” Again, that’s what McConnell said when Trump was president: “no doubt” raise the debt ceiling on a “bipartisan basis.” He said, when Trump was president, failure to do so would be a “disaster.”

Failure to do so now, Leader McConnell, is an equal disaster. Doesn’t matter who is president. We have still incurred the bills.

So, I believe it should be no different this time around.

The United States has never—ever—defaulted on paying its debts. I can’t imagine Republicans would want to be responsible for the firs-ever default.

We need to work together to raise the debt ceiling and avoid causing irreparable harm to our economy, still recovering from the devastation of the pandemic. And I would say, to the business community and the financial community, let Leader McConnell know: stop playing games with the debt ceiling.