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With short term increase, nation's debt tops $20 trillion for first time

Published: Monday, September 11, 2017 @ 4:27 PM

After President Donald Trump signed legislation on Friday to allow for an increase in the nation's debt limit, the Treasury Department reported on Monday that new numbers showed the public debt going over $20.1 trillion, jumping by $317 billion.

"What a travesty," said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), one of a number of Republicans who expressed dismay at last week's deal by Mr. Trump to fund $15.3 billion in relief aid for Hurricane Harvey, but not add any spending restraints on to the new debt limit increase.

"I hope the $20 trillion mark is the point at which we say enough is enough and take steps to save future generations from massive debt," said Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN).

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We can do better," said Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), the head of the Republican Study Committee in Congress.

"Before Congress agrees to increase the debt limit again, it is imperative we pass new laws that will change this disturbing trend instead of ignoring the root cause of our nation’s debt problems," Walker added.

But despite the cry for action, GOP lawmakers have made little headway in agreeing on how to scale back on spending, even as they decry budget deficits which keep sending that debt higher.

"This mark serves as an important reminder of the nation's unsustainable rising national debt," said the watchdog group Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

After trending down for several years, the yearly deficit has ticked back up the last two years, and is expected to be back over $600 billion this year.

It's not that Congress has been regularly increasing spending - on the contrary, discretionary spending has basically been flat since a big budget deal that was struck in 2011.

But what keeps going up are the mandatory spending programs, like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid - but instituting major changes to those programs has proven politically unpopular in the past, along with efforts for major cuts in the regular budget worked on by Congress each year.

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