Clinton Announces Record Payment on National Debt

May 1st 2000 - President Bill Clinton said Monday that the United States would pay off $216 billion in debt this year, bringing to $355 billion the amount of the nation's debt paid down in the three years since the government balanced the budget and began running surpluses.

In a written statement, Clinton said the $216 billion payment represented the largest debt paydown in American history, and he said that the federal government's long-term debt is now $2.4 trillion lower than projected to be when he first took office.

However, the U.S. government still has a long way to go before it pays down the entire national debt, which now stands at $5.7 trillion.

"We should take advantage of this historic opportunity to use the benefits of debt reduction to extend the life of Social Security and Medicare and pay off the entire national debt by 2013 for the first time since Andrew Jackson was president," Clinton said.

Clinton has asked Congress to dedicate the interest savings from paying down the national debt to the Social Security Trust Fund, which will add 54 years to its life, according to White House estimates.

Clinton also used the announcement to take issue with Republican tax cut plans, noting that "the debt quadrupled in the twelve years before I came into office," a reference to his Republican predecessors, Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

"We should not jeopardize the longest economic expansion in history with risky tax cuts that threaten our fiscal discipline," said Clinton, who credited his administration's 1993 and 1997 budgets as well "tough choices in each and every year" for the debt turnaround.

"As a result, interest rates are lower, leading to stronger investment and growth while saving money for American families," he said.