Author: Orion Donovan-Smith, Spokesman Review

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden came into office just over a month ago calling for a return to bipartisanship. That same day, he also called on Congress to pass a sweeping stimulus package.

It appears he can’t have it both ways.

Congressional Democrats are gearing up to pass Biden’s $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” in the House on Friday and squeeze it through the narrowly divided Senate on an expected party-line vote before enhanced unemployment benefits and other protections expire in mid-March.

The spending package has reawakened a partisan debate over the national debt that was largely dormant under the Trump administration. GOP lawmakers decry the legislation as overly broad and warn it would increase the national debt to an irresponsible level, while Democrats say the spending is necessary to defeat the pandemic and spur an economic recovery.

Rep. Russ Fulcher, a Republican who represents North Idaho, said he worries too many lawmakers have lost sight of the national debt.

“I still believe that our debt is our No. 1 challenge,” Fulcher said. “Every time we vote on one of these (spending bills), this is an invoice that we’re sending to our grandchildren.”

Feb. 11 report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projected the national debt in 2021 would surpass the size of the entire U.S. economy, even without the massive new spending bill. That had happened only once before since the end of World War II – in 2020, due largely to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic and the more than $4 trillion in relief spending Congress approved to combat it.

The report predicted a federal budget deficit – the difference between what the government spends and total revenue – of $2.3 trillion for fiscal year 2021, roughly $900 billion lower than the previous year. Each year the country runs a deficit, it’s added to the debt. As of Tuesday, the national debt stood at $27.9 trillion.

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