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After weeks of partisan rancor, Congress approved a debt ceiling increase that will fund the federal government through 2013 and prevent potential economic catastrophe. The final legislation -- the Budget Control Act of 2011 -- allows the United States to borrow $2.1 trillion through the next election.
In modern congressional tradition, representatives flocked to their Twitter accounts to share their thoughts about the legislation. On the evening of Aug. 1, 2011, after the House of Representatives passed the bill, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., tweeted, "There are no tax increases in this debt limit bill. Period."
His tweet alludes to the debate between Republican and Democratic lawmakers regarding taxes. President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats wanted tax revenue increases in the bill. It was one of the chief sticking points through the negotiations. The final bill that Congress approved Aug. 2, contained no explicit tax increases or revenue raisers.
Still, that's not quite the end of the story.
We reviewed the text of the legislation, as well as detailed summaries put out by the White House and congressional Republicans. To help analyze Cantor's statement, here's a quick rundown of the Revised Budget Control Act of 2011:
The bill raises the debt limit by $2.1 trillion but requires Congress to cut $2.4 trillion out of the federal budget over the next decade to match and exceed this increase. Roughly $917 billion of the cuts are implemented with the passage of the bill. The specifics of the second $1.5 trillion in cuts will be determined by a newly created bipartisan deficit reduction committee, made up of 12 lawmakers, with six members from each party.
The committee must make its recommendations on what to cut by Nov. 23, 2011. Both houses of Congress must then approve these recommendations in an up-or-down vote, allowing for no amendments. If the committee deadlocks and can't achieve $1.2 trillion in cuts, or if Congress doesn't approve the committee's recommendations, then there is an automatic $1.2 trillion in cuts that come from both defense and domestic programs. Several programs, including Social Security, benefits for Medicare recipients and initiatives for low-income Americans, are exempt.
The bill also requires that both chambers vote on a constitutional balanced budget amendment. If both chambers approve this amendment, then no automatic cuts will occur even if the committee reaches an impasse. But the chances of a balanced budget amendment aren't good: It requires a two-thirds majority of the House and Senate.
Getting back to Cantor's tweet, it's possible that the bipartisan committee could recommend revenue increases to help bridge the deficit gulf. However, there are several things Republicans could do to block this outcome. First, the six Republicans on the committee could refuse to go along with additional tax revenues. If the recommendations include tax increases, the Republican House could still vote the deal down.
Cantor's tweet is largely correct. It's true that there are no tax increases written directly into the bill. Still, the debt committee has the power to propose tax increases if a majority of its members feel it is appropriate, and if Congress approves those recommendations they would become law. Those are high hurdles, so we rate Cantor's statement Mostly True.
Thomas, Budget Control Act of 2011, accessed Aug. 2, 2011.
Rep. Eric Cantor, Tweet, Aug. 1, 2011.
Website of Speaker of the House John Boehner, Summary of the Revised Budget Control Act of 2011, Aug. 1, 2011.
White House Office of the Press Secretary: Fact Sheet: Bipartisan Debt Deal: A Win for the Economy and Budget Discipline, July 31, 2011.
The Washington Post, "President, speaker motivated by 'big deal'", July 10, 2011.
ABC News, "GOP, White House, Spar on Whether the Super-Committee Can Easily Raise Tax Revenue," Aug. 1, 2011.
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