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RSC releases “Debt Limit Playbook”

Mar 15, 2023
Press Release

WASHINGTON, DC – As the United States approaches a do-or-die debt crisis, Republican Study Committee Chairman Kevin Hern (OK-01) has led RSC Members in pursuit of commonsense spending reforms that should be prioritized in any legislation that increases the federal debt limit.


“Our nation faces a debt crisis unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Over the last two years of united Democrat control, federal spending has ballooned out of control. In spite of record-high revenues, Democrat spending is leaving us with record-high deficits. Washington doesn’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem.


The first step is admitting that both sides have contributed to our spending problem in the two decades since our last budget surplus. Republicans and Democrats alike have ignored the debt as it grew and grew; we can ignore it no longer. Generations still to come will suffer as a result of this debt- not to mention the harm it’s already causing American families and small businesses.


The Republican Study Committee has been a respected leader on fiscal responsibility for 50 years. This year, RSC has led the way in mapping out solutions for the debt crisis. Compiled in this Playbook are the materials RSC has produced for Members of the RSC over the last few months outlining our suggested policy solutions.


There’s an old proverb that says “The best time to plan a tree was twenty years ago. The second-best time is now.” Addressing our debt is the same. The longer we wait to take action, the more drastic those actions will have to be.”Chairman Hern in the Debt Limit Playbook.


HERE’s the RSC Debt Limit Playbook.


On January 19, Chairman Hern sent a Dear Colleague letter to RSC Members stating the severity of the looming debt crisis and asking for input from Members. The letter pointed out the pattern of passing spending reforms in conjunction with debt increases in 1985, 1987, 1990, 1993, 1997, 1996, 2010, and 2011.


“The only reckless assumption Congress can make about our nation’s debt crisis is that the status quo is sustainable. The RSC will work together to provide responsible solutions and show the American people that Congress can be capable of serious leadership and fiscal responsibility,” Chairman Hern said in the letter.



HERE’s Fox News coverage of the letter.



On February 1, Chairman Hern sent a second Dear Colleague to RSC Members as a follow-up to the first, listing seven policies endorsed by the RSC Steering Committee to be included in debt limit negotiations.


  1. Reverse recent increases in overall discretionary spending and institute statutory limitations on annual discretionary spending levels.
  2. Enact a package of inflation-busting reforms to increase domestic energy capacity and reduce associated regulatory and permitting barriers.
  3. Fight inflation and the onset of a Democrat-induced recession by ending the national COVID-19 emergency, increasing workforce participation, advancing targeted, paid-for, pro-growth tax policies, and countering overregulation with common-sense guardrails like the REINS Act.
  4. Ensure an increase in the debt ceiling is accomplished by commensurate spending reductions, including through recissions of the Democrats’ recent excessive spending.
  5. Eliminate wasteful spending on duplicative programs, examine ways to fight waste, fraud and abuse, and transition non-entitlement mandatory programs to the discretionary side of the budget.
  6. Establish a long-term fiscal control focused on reducing spending to restrain the growth of our federal debt as a percentage of the nation’s economy.
  7. Codify procedures to ensure the federal government honors critical obligations, such as federal debt payments, national security and veterans, Social Security, and Medicare.


HERE’s Washington Examiner coverage of the seven priorities.



On March 1, CBO Director Phillip Swagel briefed RSC Members on the current debt situation and answered questions about what potential actions could be taken to avoid a default on the debt. Swagel made it clear that balancing the budget with new taxes or economic growth alone was impossible; nothing would lower the deficit without also cutting spending.


“CBO Director Swagel painted a dark picture for us, but this wasn't news to anyone who's paid attention to our spending problem. The debt crisis is real, and there is no way out of it without cutting spending. The CBO is a nonpartisan entity, and they recognize the severity of our current situation. We need everyone, not just fiscal conservatives, to pay attention to the debt crisis and come to terms with reality. There are some really hard conversations that need to be had, both internally in the GOP and with our colleagues across the aisle,” Chairman Hern told Fox News


HERE’s Fox News coverage of the briefing.



On March 8, the RSC Policy team sent Members a memo outlining specific legislative items sourced from the January 19 call for submissions. These initiatives are concrete legislative actions that help meet the seven policy priorities from the RSC Steering Committee. Chairman Hern presented this memo to Members at RSC Lunch.


“We don’t have to go create new bills or new ideas when we already have a lot of Members that have done a lot of heavy lifting to make this happen,” Chairman Hern told The Hill.


HERE’s The Hill’s coverage of the memo.


Also on March 8, Chairman Hern asked Members of the RSC to fill out a brief survey at RSC Lunch, ranking the top three policy priorities they feel should be attached to a debt limit increase. Of 10 options, plus write-in submissions, the overwhelming winner was Energy Independence: Enact a package of inflation-busting reforms to increase domestic energy capacity and reduce associated regulatory and permitting barriers.


HERE is the survey and results.


While President Biden continues to ignore the problem, deflect blame, and refuse to negotiate with Speaker McCarthy, conservative leaders in the RSC are showing that there is a strong consensus to reform our spending alongside any legislative action to raise the debt limit.


Members of the Republican Study Committee and Chairman Hern will continue to lead the way on this issue as we get closer and closer to a debt doomsday. Democrat ignorance is no longer an excuse, it’s time to get back to the negotiation table.


All of these materials are compiled in the RSC Debt Limit Playbook (available HERE).