America’s gross national debt exceeded $33 trillion for the first time on Monday, providing a stark reminder of the country’s shaky fiscal trajectory at a moment when Washington faces the prospect of a government shutdown this month amid another fight over federal spending.
The Treasury Department noted the milestone in its daily report detailing the nation’s balance sheet. It came as Congress appeared to be faltering in its efforts to fund the government ahead of a Sept. 30 deadline. Unless Congress can pass a dozen appropriations bills or agree to a short-term extension of federal funding at existing levels, the United States will face its first government shutdown since 2019.
Over the weekend, House Republicans considered a short-term proposal that would slash spending for most federal agencies and resurrect tough Trump-era border initiatives to extend funding through the end of October. But the plan had little hope of breaking the impasse on Capitol Hill, with Republicans still divided on their demands and Democrats unlikely to support whatever compromise they reach among themselves.
The debate over the debt has grown louder this year, punctuated by an extended standoff over raising the nation’s borrowing cap.
That fight ended with a bipartisan agreement to suspend the debt limit for two years and cut federal spending by $1.5 trillion over a decade by essentially freezing some funding that had been projected to increase next year and then limiting spending to 1 percent growth in 2025. But the debt is on track to top $50 trillion by the end of the decade, even after newly passed spending cuts are taken into account, as interest on the debt mounts and the cost of the nation’s social safety net programs keeps growing.