WASHINGTON (CBS4) – Freshman Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio put himself in the company of just a few other senators Wednesday when he announced he would not vote to raise the U.S. national debt limit next month.
Currently, the U.S. government is set to reach its current debt limit in mid-April. The limit is north of $14 trillion. It’s typically been raised to help keep the government running and prevent the U.S. from defaulting on its debts.
If the U.S. doesn’t raise the debt ceiling, the government runs the risk of not being able to pay the bills which would endanger the U.S. credit rating. He cited a past vote from President Obama against a debt ceiling increase in 2006 to further his argument of the need for the debt ceiling to remain where it is.
The debt under former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, rose by roughly $1.6 trillion. It stood at roughly $5.7 trillion when President Clinton left office in January 2001, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
Clinton used a combination of tax hikes for the wealthy and other tools to keep the debt under control and eventually had a budget surplus when he left office.
During former President George W. Bush’s eight years in office, the debt rose from roughly $5.7 trillion when he took office to nearly $10.7 trillion when he left office in January 2009, according to the U.S. Treasury Department.
Part of the increase during the Bush years was from the Medicare drug plan which was paid completely on the debt. Adding in the more than trillion dollar Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and deep across the board tax cuts and the debt skyrocketed.
When President Obama took office, he walked into the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930’s. He also spent against the debt with the stimulus package to try to save the rapidly deteriorating economy and enacted broad tax cuts for all Americans near the end of last year. That helped grow the debt by several trillion dollars in his first two years in office.
That set the stage for the current battle in Washington over the debt limit that Senator Rubio has now said is too much for him to vote to raise.
Rubio said that he would vote to raise the ceiling if, “it is the last one we ever authorize and is accompanied by a plan for fundamental tax reform, an overhaul of our regulatory structure, a cut to discretionary spending, a balanced-budget amendment, and reforms to save Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.”
The tax reforms Rubio spoke of included making permanent low rates on capital gains and dividends. He also mentioned lowering our corporate tax rate. But, as has been reported by multiple media outlets, many major American companies like GE currently don’t pay any corporate income taxes.
Rubio said that “nondiscretionary spending is a mere 19 percent of the budget. Focusing on this alone would lead to draconian cuts to essential and legitimate programs. To get our debt under control, we must reform and save our entitlement programs.”
The freshman Senator said no changes to people already on Social Security and Medicare will be made. But, he said people “decades away from retirement, like me, must accept that reforms are necessary if we want Social Security and Medicare to exist at all be the time we are eligible for them.”
Rubio will be eligible for a government pension and government health care for the rest of his life. He will qualify for his pension at the age of 62 and it will be roughly 80 percent of his salary of roughly $174,000 a year, assuming no pay increases are given to Senators and other members of Congress for the next six years.
“Whether they admit it or not, everyone in Washington knows how to solve these problems,” Rubio wrote. “What is missing is the political will to do it. The 21st century can also be the American Century. Our people are ready. Now it’s time for their leaders to join them.”