7/23 @ 10:00 AM ET | GOP Leadership Press Conference - WATCH LIVE HERE

President Obama says he will oppose any effort this fall by Congress to attach spending cuts and reforms to a debt limit increase.  This stance puts the president at odds with the approach taken by his predecessors, Democratic and Republican alike.  Coupling efforts to reduce America's debt and deficit with increases in the debt limit is a common-sense policy that has been used under Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton – and, most recently, President Obama himself. 

The fact is, for decades, the White House and Congress have used the debt limit to find bipartisan solutions on the deficit and debt.  In fact, every major effort to deal with the deficit over the past 30 years has been tied to the debt limit. In 1985, President Reagan signed the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings deficit reduction bill, which included a debt limit increase.  When President Bush reached a budget agreement with a Democratic Congress in 1990, it included a debt limit increase.  President Clinton reached similar agreements with a Democratic majority in 1993, and with a Republican majority on the balanced budget agreement of 1997.

In the mid-1980s and early-1990s, when there was a focus on deficits and debt similar to the one that frequently dominates the debate in Washington today, agreements to raise the debt limit regularly included spending cuts, budget reforms and other reforms to support economic growth.  Examples of spending cuts and reforms included in debt limit agreements signed by previous presidents include:

March 1996 Debt Limit Agreement (Signed by President Bill Clinton)

  • Raised debt limit from $4.9 trillion to $5.5 trillion
  • Included:
    • Congressional Review Act (CRA) for Regulations
    • Senior Citizens' Right to Work Act of 1996 - Amends title II (Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance) (OASDI) of the Social Security Act (SSA) to provide, through adjustments in the monthly exempt amount, for increases in the amounts of allowable earnings under the social security earnings limit for individuals who have attained retirement age.
    • A Series of Small Business Regulatory Relief Proposals

November 1990 Debt Limit Agreement (Signed by President George H.W. Bush)

  • Raised the debt limit from $3.123 trillion to $4.145 trillion
  • Included:
    • Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Deal, including major changes in 13 areas:
      • Title I. Agriculture and related programs.
      • Title II. Banking, housing, and related programs.
      • Title III. Student loans and labor provisions.
      • Title IV. Medicare, Medicaid, and other health-related programs.
      • Title V. Income security, human resources, and related programs.
      • Title VI. Energy and environmental programs.
      • Title VII. Civil service and postal service programs.
      • Title VIII. Veterans' programs.
      • Title IX. Transportation.
      • Title X. Miscellaneous user fees and other provisions.
      • Title XI. Revenue provisions.
      • Title XII. Pensions.
      • Title XIII. Budget enforcement.
    • Discretionary Caps

November 1989 Debt Limit Agreement (Signed by President George H.W. Bush)

  • Raised the debt limit from $2.8 trillion to $3.123 trillion
  • Included:
    • A repeal of controversial non-discrimination requirement for group health insurance enacted in 1986

September 1987 Debt Limit Agreement (Signed by President Ronald Reagan)

  • Raised the debt limit from $2.111 trillion to $2.8 trillion
  • Included:
    • The Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Reaffirmation Act of 1987, which
      • Revised the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Deficit Reduction Procedures
      • Made Other Budget Process Reforms

December 1985 Debt Limit Agreement (Signed by President Ronald Reagan)

  • Raised the debt limit from $1.824 trillion to $2.079 trillion
  • Included:
    • The Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Budget Reforms including deficit targets and sequestration

Prepared by the Office of the Speaker and the Office of the Majority Leader, U.S. House of Representatives.