US federal debt passes $20 trillion for first time

US federal debt passes $20 trillion for first time
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The U.S. federal government's gross debt surpassed $20 trillion on Friday, according to a daily Treasury Department statement.
 
The debt jumped from $19.8 trillion to $20.1 trillion after Congress suspended the debt ceiling for three months, allowing the Treasury to borrow again on the open markets.
 
For months, it had been using off-book extraordinary measures to keep from defaulting. Since President Trump signed a bill including the debt-limit lift Friday, it was able to start unwinding those measures with regular borrowing and increase the debt.
 
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But that figure includes $5.5 trillion in intragovernmental debt, which is debt that one part of the government owes another, and does not impact governmental finances the same way, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The total of debt held by the public stands at roughly $14.6 trillion.
 
Still, deficit hawks reacted with alarm.
 
"Surpassing $20 trillion in debt is the latest indicator of our nation's dire fiscal condition," said Michael A. Peterson, president and CEO of the fiscally conservative Peter G. Peterson Foundation.
 
The debt burden, he said, would lead the government to spend $6 trillion on interest over the next decade. 
 
"That's more than we will invest in our kids. So, in effect, we have decided to spend more on our past than on our future," he said.
 
He also urged Congress to pass "fiscally responsible" tax reform, which he added should be bipartisan and deficit neutral.
Republican Study Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Walker (R-N.C.) said the milestone was the result of the debt-ceiling lift, for which he blamed Congressional leaders from both sides and Trump. Conservatives were furious at the plan, which did not include the spending reforms they have demanded.
 
"Before Congress agrees to increase the debt limit again, it is imperative we pass new laws that will change this disturbing trend instead of ignoring the root cause of our nation’s debt problems,” he said.
 
The next debt-ceiling increase is due at some point in 2018, possibly as soon as March.