Debt-ceiling crisis came with hefty bill for taxpayers, report finds

Bragin Alexey/

Last year’s debt-ceiling crisis has cost U.S. taxpayers at least $1.3 billion, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

On top of that total -- which resulted from an increase in the Treasury Department’s borrowing costs -- Treasury officials were sidetracked from their standard duties and forced to work overtime to determine how to avoid default, The Washington Post reported.

“These events diverted Treasury’s staff away from other important cash and debt management responsibilities, as well as staff development and program oversight activities,” GAO wrote. The auditors found that department employees worked 5,750 hours in preparation for default.

The full impact of the debacle has not yet been felt, the watchdog said, as increased borrowing costs will continue in coming years. Bloomberg has reported that Congress’ last-minute action also lowered consumer confidence and stymied job growth.

GAO auditors said Congress should learn from the 2011 crisis and use the next debt-ceiling debate to address the nation’s deeply rooted financial problems.

“[We] believe that Congress should consider ways to better link decisions about the debt limit with decisions about spending and revenue to avoid potential disruptions to the Treasury market and to help inform the fiscal policy debate in a timely way,” GAO wrote.

(Image via Bragin Alexey/

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