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Report: Congressional Gridlock Has Cost $1.3 Billion

Jul 24, 2012
Originally published on July 24, 2012 5:19 pm
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

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And I'm Audie Cornish. A new report says gridlock in Congress has cost taxpayers about $1.3 billion. That's from the Government Accountability Office. It found that last summer's fight over raising the federal debt ceiling caused a spike in borrowing costs for the Treasury.

NPR's Andrea Seabrook explains.

ANDREA SEABROOK, BYLINE: This time a year ago, Washington was in a frenzy. Government spending had already blown past the congressionally mandated debt limit and the White House warned the nation could default and trigger a worldwide financial crisis. Many in the new Republican majority had campaigned promising to block new government spending, and so House Speaker John Boehner refused to raise the limit without deep spending cuts. Tax increases? Off the table.

REPRESENTATIVE JOHN BOEHNER: Now, let me just say that the White House moved the goal post.

SEABROOK: At one point, Boehner and President Obama came within inches of a deal.

BOEHNER: Until yesterday when the president demanded $400 billion more, which was going to be nothing more than a tax increase on the American people.

SEABROOK: Democrats had agreed to cuts in social spending, but insisted on a tax increase on the wealthy. Republicans would not accept that and the deal tanked. Congressional leaders later came up with a last ditch plan to keep the government out of default, and even that was rejected by many freshman Republicans like South Carolina's Trey Gowdy.

REPRESENTATIVE TREY GOWDY: I could not support this vigorous plan in its current form. I need a remedy that ensures the 75th time we raise the debt ceiling in this country is the last time we raise it.

SEABROOK: In the aftermath of last summer's fight, Standard & Poor's downgraded the U.S. credit rating, citing corrosive gridlock in Congress. Now, the Government Accountability Office says the Treasury had to pay more to borrow what it needed, increasing the debt by $1.3 billion.

To put that number in perspective, earlier this year, Republicans held a series of hearings on wasted money within the General Services Administration. Gowdy warns the witnesses.

GOWDY: The notion that you have to spend $800,000 to exchange ideas is laughable and perhaps criminal.

SEABROOK: Now, that money wasted by the GSA, it's a tiny fraction, less than one-thousandth of the $1.3 billion Congress cost taxpayers in the debt crisis. As of this afternoon, no one had scheduled even a single hearing about that episode.

Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.