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During a hearing today on the Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) recently released updated budget outlook, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY) said while Congress remains focused on the pandemic facing the country, it must begin to address the national debt.

“CBO’s updated budget projections confirmed what we all knew, that the economic disruption caused by COVID-19 and the federal government’s response have led to a surge in deficits and debt,” said Chairman Enzi. “In response to the pandemic and the ensuing lockdowns, we came together on a bipartisan basis to enact the largest relief package in U.S. history. We worked to alleviate the financial devastation. And it helped, but at great cost.”

Enzi noted that a lack of attention to our increased national debt means there is less flexibility to deal with any future crisis. CBO estimates the legislation enacted in response to the pandemic so far will cost roughly $2.8 trillion, adding to our already high and rising national debt. Over time, CBO says that our growing debt will result in higher borrowing costs, lower output, and an increased risk of a fiscal crisis. Higher interest payments on the debt—which CBO projects will be larger than any single program by 2050—could also make it harder for lawmakers to respond to future emergencies.

“Deficit spending and the national debt were unsustainable before the pandemic,” Chairman Enzi said. “We must address these challenges before they become the next crisis or prevent future policymakers from dealing with new unforeseen emergencies. We cannot continue running trillion-dollar annual deficits forever. The longer we wait, the more severe the changes and challenges will be, and the fewer options we will have.”