The following is a fact-check from the August 8, 2010 episode of Meet the Press:
ANDREA MITCHELL (NBC) | The debt commission was set up only after mostly Republican senators, who had previously supported it, abandoned the legislation. – TRUE
MS. MITCHELL: The reason the president appointed the debt commission was because some senators who had supported it… REP. FORD: Republican senators… MS. MITCHELL: …including mostly Republican senators, abandoned it. So they couldn’t pass the legislation which would have a debt commission with teeth.
Up for a vote back in January of 2010, the Conrad/Gregg commission proposal would have created the Bipartisan Task Force for Responsible Fiscal Action. It was co-sponsored by Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Judd Gregg (R-NH), the top Democrat and the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. It would have established an 18-member bipartisan commission to study the current and future fiscal condition of the federal government and make recommendations about how to cut the bulging deficit. The recommendations would have been voted on in the House and Senate floors under a special procedure.
The New York Times reported that President Obama endorsed the Senate bill to create a bipartisan budget commission, whose recommendations for cutting deficits would have to be voted on by Congress. But he also remained ready to establish a panel by executive order if the effort to do so by law failed.
PolitiFact reports that the measure would have passed with 60 votes if only seven additional Republicans who had co-sponsored the Conrad/Gregg proposal had voted for it. Instead, the seven senators — Robert Bennett of Utah, Sam Brownback of Kansas, Mike Crapo of Idaho, John Ensign of Nevada, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, and John McCain of Arizona — withdrew their co-sponsorship in the days before the vote and then voted against it on the floor.
After the failed Conrad/Gregg proposal, President Obama followed through with what he had said and released an executive order to create a non-partisan commission to slash the deficit. Thus, we rate Ms. Mitchell’s statement TRUE.
The following fact-check took combined 1 hour.
The following is a fact-check from the July 18, 2010 episode of Meet the Press.
SEN. BOB MENENDEZ (D-NJ)
1) Over the course of the Bush administration there was a 72% increase in the national debt, from $5.7 trillion to $9.8 trillion – MOSTLY TRUE
2) At the end of the Bush  administration, the U.S. had a $1.5 trillion budget deficit - TRUE
SEN. MENENDEZ: And it’s not just talking about President Bush, it’s the policies that they espouse that are in essence Bush’s policies. Those led us to a 72 percent increase in the debt from $5.7 trillion to $9.8 trillion when Bush left. It led us to a massive elimination of the surplus that Bill Clinton gave George Bush, and he had a $1.5 trillion deficit when he left office
1) According to the Treasury Department, when George W. Bush took office in 2001 the national debt was $5.73 trillion and when Bush left office in 2009, the national debt had increased to $10.63 trillion. That’s a 85% increase of $4.9 trillion. Sen. Menendez is off by 13%, but he is correct in the underlying message that the national debt did significantly increase under George W. Bush. Thus, we rate Sen. Menendez’s statement MOSTLY TRUE.
2) According to the Congressional Budget Office, under former president Bill Clinton there was a budget surplus in 1999 ($1.9 billion) and in 2000 ($86.4 billion). But the surpluses in 1999 and 2000 were not enough to eliminate the national debt. When the federal government spends more money than it takes in, that’s a deficit. When the government takes in more money than it spends, that’s a surplus (Treasury Department budget FAQs). Though former president Bill Clinton had two consecutive surplus years, the U.S. national debt actually increased $400 billion over his term (1992 to 2000).
When former president Bill Clinton left office in 2000 there was a $86.4 billion surplus. When former president George W. Bush left office in 2008 there was a $1.5 trillion budget deficit. Because Sen. Menendez was correct in stating that there was a $1.5 trillion budget deficit when George W. Bush left office and the budget surplus that Bill Clinton left from his presidency had turned into a deficit, we rate Sen. Menendez’s statement TRUE.
Special thanks to crowd-sourcer Shelley for assisting with this fact-check.
This fact-check took a combined 2.5 hours.
The following is a fact-check from the 5/23 episode of Meet the Press.
1) The US has an annual deficit of $2 trillion – HALF TRUE
2) The interest to that debt is $383 billion - TRUE
DR. PAUL: We have an annual deficit of nearly $2 trillion. Interest alone on the debt is $383 billion.
1) According to the Treasury Department, the national debt for fiscal year 2009 was $1.786 trillion. Mr. Paul said that it was “nearly $2 trillion.” Our conclusion hinges on our understanding of “nearly.” It would be reasonable to assume that if you spent $1.78 on something, you could probably refer to the amount spent as “nearly $2.00″ When the difference is 22 cents, that does not seem like a big deal, but when the difference is hundreds of billions of dollars, we believe it is misleading to classify $1.786 trillion as nearly $2 trillion. Because of this, we rate the first part of Mr. Paul’s statement HALF TRUE.
Incidentally, if you wanted to look at the total deficit for the length of one year specifically prior to May 22, 2010 when Mr. Paul made this statement, the national debt was $1.686 trillion. (5/21/09-5/22/10)
2) Also according to the Treasury Department, the net interest on the outstanding debt of fiscal year 2009 was indeed $383 billion. Because of this, we rate the second part of Mr. Paul’s statement TRUE.
The following is a fact-check from the 5/23 episode of Meet the Press.
SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX)
1) Since President Obama was sworn into office the national debt has increased 23% – MOSTLY TRUE
2.) President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress are “responsible” for that 23% increase in the national debt – HALF TRUE (Highly Misleading)
3) Under Obama’s budget the debt-to-GDP ratio will increase to 90% by 2020 - TRUE
4) Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 115% – MOSTLY TRUE
SEN. CORNYN: There they go again blaming it on George Bush. I don’t know when this administration, when the Democratic leadership that got the majority in November 2008 are going to take responsibility for the 23 percent increase in the national debt since President Obama was sworn into office. Under the president’s own budget, our debt-to-GDP ratio will be up to 90 percent by 2020, 90 percent, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Greece is at a 115 percent.
1) According to the Treasury Department, the current holding of debt on the day President Obama was sworn in, January 20, 2009, was $10.618 trillion and on May 21, 2010, the debt was at $12.978 trillion. This means that in that time the debt has increased by 22.31%. So Sen. Cornyn was off by .69%. Therefore stating that the debt has gone up by 23% since Obama was sworn in is MOSTLY TRUE.
2) However, it is also worth examining how Sen. Cornyn attaches that number to a statement or assertion that seems to indicate that Pres. Obama and the Democratic leadership are “responsible” for this total increase. To suggest that is highly misleading. Pres. Obama’s first budget did not take effect the day he was sworn in. If looking at the debt that Pres. Obama and the Democratic majority are “responsible” for as Sen. Cornyn suggests, then Oct 1, 2009 is the reasonable start date, when fiscal year 2010 and Pres. Obama’s first budget took effect. The debt at that point was $11.920 trillion, meaning the increase from then to May 21 was 8.95%. We agree with this analysis from crowd-checker kcars1:
The line for how much debt/spending a president is responsible is a difficult line to draw, particularly in this case because there has been so much extra-budgetary, emergency activity. The president enters office operating on the previous president’s budget for 9 months. In addition, there is greater than 50% of the budget that is already committed and which takes years to alter (Social Security, Medicare, and Net Interest). Adding to all of that, no one does zero-based budgeting, so programs already in place are likely to suck up a few dollars — at the very least in the process of being wound down.
So while Sen. Cornyn’s statement regarding the specific percentage increase and timeline is factual, the larger assertion he seems to be making is half true at best. Obviously Pres. Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress are responsible for some of the increase, indeed probably a majority of it, but if Sen. Cornyn means to imply they are totally or solely responsible for the 23% increase, that is false. If he meant some responsibility, then the statement would of course be true. Since we cannot know for sure which he meant, we deem it misleading and HALF TRUE.
3) Under Obama’s budget the debt-to-GDP ratio will increase to 90% by 2020- According to the Congressional Budget Office’s projection, if the current economic conditions and tax rates stay the same, the debt-to-GDP ratio will be 90% in 2020. Therefore, we rate this statement as TRUE.
4) Greece’s debt-to-GDP ratio is 115%- According to CIA-The World Factbook, the debt-to-GDP ratio was 113.4% in 2009. Because of the 1.6% discrepancy, we’ll rate this statement MOSTLY TRUE.
Special thanks to crowd-checker kcar1 for assisting with this fact-check.
This fact-check took a combined 2 hours.
The following is a fact-check of the May 16, 2010 episode of Meet the Press:
SEN. MITCH McCONNELL (R-KY) | The Obama admin. will have doubled the national debt in the next 5 years, triple it in 10 – TRUE
SEN. McCONNELL: They’ve doubled the national debt in the last–will double the national debt in the next five years, triple it in 10.
Politifact checked the same statement made by Judd Gregg and here is what they had to say:
To check the claim, we relied on an analysis from the Congressional Budget Office, released on March 20. The CBO, a nonpartisan arm of Congress, projects that the national debt will go from $5.8 trillion in 2008 to $11.8 trillion by the end of 2013; and to $17.3 trillion in 2019. By that count, Gregg’s claim of doubling the debt in five years, tripling it in 10 years, is correct.
Politifact used the CBO’s estimate of the President’s budget, and according to the estimate, the national debt will double in 5 years and triple in 10. Therefore, we find Sen. Mitch McConnell’s statement TRUE.
Special thanks to crowd-sourcer James for assisting with this fact-check.
This fact-check took a combined 1 hour.