In manna for Democrats, President Obama said in harsh words Monday that he is completely unwilling to negotiate spending cuts with Congressional Republicans if they unwillingness to raise the debt ceiling as their bargaining chip.
Calling a failure to raise the debt ceiling “a financial disaster not only for us, but the whole economy” and the GOP’s position “irresponsible” and “absurd,” it looks like Obama has finally found his negotiating breaking point, with the GOP’s insistence on holding the country’s finances hostage being the last proverbial straw on the camel’s back.
“The full faith and credit of the United States is not a bargaining chip,” said Obama. He claimed that America “can no longer afford “partisan brinkmanship over paying our bills,” and that the country has to “stop lurching from crisis to crisis to crisis.”
Most tellingly, the president said that “We are not a deadbeat nation,” a clear move to position the White House position as the responsible one. Obama said that Republicans want to “threaten to wreck the whole economy,” and that “they can act responsibly and pay America’s bills, or they can act irresponsibly and cause another financial crisis.”
The GOP has been planning on using the debt ceiling as leverage ever since Tea Party Republicans originally threw a fit over raising it in 2011 As fellow PolicyMic pundit Mark Kogan notes, prior to that debate, raising the debt ceiling had been treated as a formality beyond political debate. In fact, Republicans voted 19 times to raise it during the administration of George Bush.
Republicans, in fact, have little intention of actually letting the United States slip into credit default. The Wall Street Journal urged the GOP not to “take a hostage you aren’t prepared to shoot,” and they are not. As Karl Rove accidentally highlighted in his latest column, “who is suggesting” that we default on our bills? “Not House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, or any other Republican leader.”
So the GOP has no intention of actually taking the country beyond the debt ceiling. With that said, they have no leverage. The President knows this. He also knows that the fight in 2011 caused the country a credit downgrade, hurt job growth, and actually expanded the deficit.
Kudos, then, that President Obama will refuse to let Republicans extract major spending cuts from the administration by using the debt ceiling. As he said today, there is a time to negotiate and time not to. With all the cards in the President’s hand, now is not one of those times.
“There are no magic tricks here. There are no loopholes. There are no easy outs. This is a matter of Congress authorizes spending. They ordered me to spend it,” he said. “There is no simpler solution, no ready credible solution” other than raising the ceiling.