Rep. Hoyer Fatuously Claims Bush Inherited $5.6 Trillion Surplus, Chuck Todd Mum

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) made a blatantly inaccurate statement on the "Daily Rundown" this morning that MSNBC anchor Chuck Todd should have, but failed to, call the House minority whip out on.

"We went from a $5.6 trillion surplus that George Bush inherited to over a $11-plus trillion debt when George Bush left office," asserted Hoyer.

Explaining why he voted against the House Republican bill to raise the debt limit without cutting spending – a position both he and President Barack Obama have advocated for months – Hoyer promised to vote against any measure to extend the borrowing limit that blamed the nation's fiscal problems on the sitting president, instead of his Republican predecessor.

Hoyer emphasized the "factual standpoint" on which he based his vote, yet Todd neglected to question his guest's egregious fallacy.

Instead, Todd just joked with the Maryland congressman about business as usual in the District: "Knowing this town, it's probably going to take until July 31st or August 1st. Procrastination is, I think the word was, invented, here in Washington, DC."

For the record, President Bill Clinton did not hand over a $5.6 trillion surplus to President George W. Bush. In fact, not only was the national debt more than $5.8 trillion when Bush took office, according to Treasury Department figures, but the largest budget surplus the 42nd president ever amassed was $236 billion in FY 2000. Bush inherited nowhere near $5.6 trillion in surpluses when Clinton left office.

While $236 billion is nothing to scoff at, it is not even in the ballpark of Hoyer's claim. Considering how central those fatuous figures were to Hoyer's vote, the NBC News political director should have recognized and corrected such a gaping discrepancy.

A transcript of the relevant portions of the segment can be found below:

The Daily Rundown
June 1, 2011

9:47 a.m. EDT

CHUCK TODD: Big news we've been talking about all morning of course is this debate over the debt. House Republicans voted down their own bill yesterday that would have raised the nation's borrowing limit with no strings attached, something the president asked for six months ago. Democrats were split on the measure, although many saw it as a political stunt. A clean borrowing bill is though what some in the caucus were calling for some time. Congressman Steny Hoyer is the House Minority Whip. Congressman, I have to ask: you got the bill that the president asked for three months ago. Now I know it was under theatrical circumstances. But if this is what you wanted why not have whipped it and said you know what, fine, this is the thing we said we should do and we're going to stick to our guns on this issue?

Rep. STENY HOYER (D-Md.): Well everyone realized it was a political gotcha game. In fact, it wasn't clean. In fact, it's premise was we have this debt because of President Obama's policies. That's simply not true. The world knows it's not true. The Republicans know it's not true. We went from a $5.6 trillion surplus that George Bush inherited to over a $11-plus-trillion debt when George Bush left office. So to say it is Obama's debt and that the debt limit needs to be extended because of Obama is simply not true. So from a factual standpoint it wasn't a clean debt limit extension. But everybody knows – every Republican leader knows, every Democratic leader knows – in both the House and the Senate, and most of America knows, that the debt limit needs to be extended to pay the bills we've already incurred. To that extent, it was political theater. It was interesting, on the front page of the Washington Post today, there was not a mention of that vote. Yesterday was frankly a waste of America's time, a waste of the Congress's time, but it perhaps gives some political cover to Republicans who say they're not going to vote to extend the debt limit, notwithstanding the fact that John Boehner says it's the adult thing to do and others have said it would be catastrophic if we didn't. The other thing –

TODD: I was just going to ask, though. Let me ask you this: what is a deal going to look like? We know there's going to be a deal, everyone agrees there's going to be a deal. Knowing this town, it's probably going to take until July 31st or August 1st. Procrastination is, I think the word was, invented, here in Washington, DC. That said, is the deal – do you expect the deal to be totally done, or one of these we agree there's going to be triggers, but we'll decide what the split is on spending cuts to tax increases after the 2012 elections?

–Alex Fitzsimmons is a News Analysis intern at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.

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