The federal deficit roared to $736 billion in the first four months of the 2021 fiscal year, according to Treasury data released Wednesday.
That figure is 89 percent higher than in the same period last year, before the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in the United States. It is also near or above the annual deficit in most fiscal years in recent decades.
The latest deficit data is likely to further spur a discussion on the size and scope of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief proposal, which Republicans and some centrist Democrats say is too big.
Neera Tanden, Biden’s pick to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget, addressed the concern in a Tuesday confirmation hearing.
“The real challenge is right now we can face the potential of significant scarring in this economy,” she said. “It is vital that we act.”
Republicans have raised concerns that the package would overheat the economy and further expand the debt, which could weigh on future economic growth. The debt grew precipitously under President Trump, a result of lower taxes, higher defense spending and higher domestic spending.
Senate Budget Committee ranking member Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said the debt problem would eventually have to be addressed.
“From a Republican point of view, we can’t really say a whole lot about running up the debt, because we did it too,” he said Wednesday.
“But there will be a day of reckoning,” he added.