Freshman Democrat ‘Trying to Inspire’ More Lawmakers to Be ‘Mindful’ of $22 Trillion Debt

WASHINGTON – Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) told PJM that the rising deficit and national debt should be “injected into the national conversation” and urged Congress to work on ways to “rectify” the situation.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that the federal deficit will surpass $1 trillion by 2022. The national debt is currently more than $22 trillion, according to the U.S. Treasury.

Phillips, a freshman lawmaker, was asked if he would support a pay increase for members of Congress in the fiscal year 2020 budget that the House is considering right now. Congressional pay is currently $174,000 per year.

"I'm going to give you my general perspective on compensation in this place. I want the best and brightest to serve our country, I want to retain them and without opining specifically on the legislation and congressional pay, I simply want to see a system that rewards good people to come here and stick around for at least a reasonable amount of time to do good work on behalf of the country," Phillips said on Wednesday.

"For that matter, I welcome perspectives on both sides. I respect those who think government should absolutely operate as efficiently as possible, but that doesn't mean that we should under-compensate people because we should have great people, and we do, but in some cases, I think we could do better by them," he added.

Phillips said the nation's rising national debt is something Congress should pay more attention to at this time.

"This should be injected into the national conversation right now. Our debt is deeply troublesome and as I think about these kids walking back and forth all day long, that's what we should be mindful of when using the national credit card," Phillips said on Capitol Hill. "We need more people here who are mindful of it and willing to start talking about how to rectify that."

Phillips referred to the amount the government pays in interest on the debt as “staggering.” In 2018, interest on the national debt was $523 billion.

“If interest rates spike, as we had in the ‘80s, anybody who lived through that knows it can happen at anytime and it just leaves so little for discretionary spending in this country that we will be servicing our debt almost to the exclusion of important programs in our country that everybody favors,” the congressman said. “I’m mindful and trying to inspire a lot more people to be equally mindful.”

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