Last week, eight House Republicans joined every House Democrat in voting to remove Kevin McCarthy from the speaker’s office. While the reasons for these Republicans choosing to remove one of their own may vary, all have referenced the United States’ $33–trillion-and-growing national debt as part of their calculus.
These lawmakers are right that our rising debt and deficits are unsustainable. According to the latest forecast from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, debt held by the public will rise steadily from 97 percent of GDP in 2022 to 115 percent in 2033—the highest level on record. Since that forecast was made in June, interest rates on the debt have soared, pointing to a deteriorating fiscal outlook. And while history will be the judge of the 118th Congress’ spending record, the present day demands solutions, not theatrics.
If House Republicans are truly serious about tackling the national debt, there are a number of steps they must demand of themselves and the next speaker.
To begin, they must acknowledge that so long as we have divided government, compromise remains the only path to a budgetary solution. Structures should be put in place to facilitate sensible compromise rather than political theater. That means establishing a bipartisan commission, with assistance from outside experts, to set specific, tangible, and attainable targets. Balancing a budget in 10 years is admirable, but a more realistic and sustainable goal would be to stabilize debt as a share of GDP at or below current levels.