H.R. 3442, Debt Management and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2015

H.R. 3442

Debt Management and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2015

Ways and Means

February 11, 2016 (114th Congress, 2nd Session)

Staff Contact
John Huston

Floor Situation

On Thursday, February 11, 2016, the House will consider H.R. 3442, the Debt Management and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2015, under a structured rule. H.R. 3442 was introduced on September 8, 2015 by Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-TX) and was referred to the Committee on Ways and Means, which ordered the bill reported by a vote of 22 to 14 on September 10, 2015.

Bill Summary

H.R. 3442 requires the Secretary of the Treasury to appear before the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Committee on Finance between 21 and 60 days before the Secretary anticipates that borrowing by the Treasury will reach the legal debt limit. The bill also requires the Secretary to present to the committees information on the debt, the fiscal outlook, and the Administration’s plans to address debt and fiscal issues during such appearance and make such information publicly available.[1]

[1] See House Report 114-291 at 4.


The debt limit places a statutory limit on the amount of money that the U.S. Treasury may borrow to fund federal government operations.[1]  The current national debt is approximately $18.9 trillion; $5.3 trillion of which is debt in the form of intragovernmental holdings and $13.6 trillion is debt held by the public.[2] H.R. 1314, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which was enacted on November 2, 2015, suspended the debt limit until March 15, 2017. On the following day, the current debt limit will be raised by the amount of borrowing incurred during this suspension period.

Congress exercises its borrowing authority by placing restrictions on public debt. Until World War I, Congress typically authorized limited amounts of debt, with defined maturity and redemption terms, for specific projects. Upon America’s entry into World War I, Congress passed the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917 to ensure liquidity necessary to meet obligations as presented. The Act delegated control over day-to-day borrowing activity, subject to various limitations, to the Executive branch. [3] Through the 1920s and 1930s, Congress altered the form of those restrictions to give the U.S. Treasury more flexibility in debt management and to allow modernization of federal financing. In 1939, a general limit was placed on federal debt.[4]

The national debt consists of both debt held by the public and debt held by the government or intragovernmental holdings. Debt held by the public consists of securities the Treasury has issued to investors. The balance is debt held by the government in the form of non-marketable Treasury securities, the majority of which is held by the Social Security Trust Funds. According to the Committee, “H.R. 3442 aims to establish a new debt limit communication framework that enhances accountability, reduces disruptive risk, and returns the focus to finding debt reduction solutions.”[5]

According to the bill sponsor, the bill “is a tough but fair framework to rein-in our national debt by strengthening accountability and transparency in the debt limit process. It’s about putting our national debt under a microscope for all Americans to examine, and finding debt reduction solutions to get our nation’s fiscal house in order.”[6]


[1] See CRS Report, “The Debt Limit: History and Recent Increases”, October 1, 2015.
[2] See Treasury Department website, The Debt to the Penny and Who Holds It
[3] See CRS Report, The Debt Limit, October 16, 2015.
[4] See CRS Report, “The Debt Limit: History and Recent Increases”, October 1, 2015.
[5] See House Report 114-291 at 4.
[6] See Rep. Kenny Marchant Press Release, “Ways and Means Advances Marchant Bill to Help Reduce National Debt,” September 10, 2015.


The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that implementing H.R. 3442 would cost less than $500,000 over the 2016 to 2020 period; such spending would be subject to the availability appropriated funds. Because enacting the bill would not affect direct spending or revenues, pay-as-you go procedures do not apply.


  1. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) – This amendment requires the Treasury Secretary’s report to also include historical levels of federal revenue, including corporate and individual federal income taxes as a percent of gross domestic product.
  2. Tim Huelskamp (R-KA) – This amendment requires the Secretary of the Treasury to provide weekly reporting of extraordinary measures and projected exhaustion date upon notification the debt limit has been reached.
  3. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) – This amendment directs the Secretary of the Treasury to include in the debt report to Congress whether the President recommends that Congress adopt a balanced budget amendment to control the accumulation of future debt.
  4. Robin Kelly (D-IL) – This amendment requires the Treasury Secretary’s report to also include an economic forecast of the negative consequences of failing to raise the debt limit, including costs associated with public health and safety.
  5. Sean Duffy (R-WI) – This amendment requires the Secretary of the Treasury to notify Congress whether it is able to pay only principal and interest on the national debt, as opposed to other obligations, in the event that the debt limit is reached.
  6. Luke Messer (R-IN) – This amendment requires the Secretary to report on extraordinary measures the Treasury Department intends to use if the debt limit is not lifted, project how long such measures will fund the federal government, and project the administrative costs to the Treasury Department associated with taking such actions.
  7. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) – This amendment requires the Treasury Secretary’s report to also include individual salary and wage information, as well as projections of consumer spending and the impact of spending cuts on gross domestic product.
  8. Rep. Mark Takana (D-CA) – This amendment requires the report to include the impact the threat of default would have on the economy, including, but not limited to, the impact on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), interest rates, employment, household wealth, and retirement assets.

Additional Information

For questions or further information please contact John Huston with the House Republican Policy Committee by email or at 6-5539.