The Senate voted on December 24 to allow the federal government to borrow an additional $290 billion, thereby increasing the total federal debt from $12.1 trillion to about $12.4 trillion. The House had already approved the measure during the previous week.
"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds," poet-philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in the 19th Century. Small minds, at least those belonging to the ruling class in Washington, D.C., have broadened considerably since then. Senate Republicans, for example, may often be foolish on the subjects of taxing and spending. But at least two dozen of the current crop of GOP Solons have insulated themselves against any suspicion of consistency.
The Senate Banking Committee convened Thursday morning, December 17, and voted 16-7 to confirm Ben Bernanke for a second four-year term as Chairman of the Federal Reserve.
The Senate on December 13 passed a mammoth omnibus spending bill variously described as costing $447 billion or $1.1 trillion, depending on whether "mandatory" spending for programs such as Medicare and Social Security were included in the tabulation. The Senate vote completed congressional action, sending the legislation to the President for his signature. Dozens of federal agencies received average budget increases of 10 percent.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) stated on December 11 that the federal government must borrow at least $1.8 trillion more in 2010 if the United States is to avoid defaulting on its debts. This would be over and above the current $12.1 trillion national debt limit.