In debate over debt limit, Democrats ask what Reagan would do

Alec Jacobs Contributor
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In the debate over raising the debt ceiling, Democrats are trying out a new strategy, asking Republicans: WWRD? What Would Reagan Do?

“Ronald Reagan worked with [former Democratic Speaker of the House] Tip O’Neill and Democrats to cut spending, raise revenues and reform Social Security,” President Obama said Saturday in his weekly address to the nation. “That kind of cooperation should be the least you expect from us.” (Dems afraid McConnell’s debt ceiling plan will make them look bad)

The section of the address is part of a larger attempt by Democrats to invoke the former president and conservative icon. The Hill reports that Democrats have begun to cite Reagan’s support for raising the debt ceiling when he was president to make a stronger argument for raising it now.

Some Republicans have announced that they won’t vote to raise the debt ceiling no matter what, most notably Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, a contender for the Republican Party’s nomination for president.

But Democrats hope that by bringing Reagan into the debate, they’ll be able to sway some conservative Republicans who’ve rejected raising the debt limit.

“Ronald Reagan was a strong conservative. But Ronald Reagan said that there were important times for compromise for the good of the country,” Maryland Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen said.

“The debt ceiling was raised 17 times when Ronald Reagan was president, and as Alan Simpson — former Sen. Simpson said — that when push came to shove, Reagan agreed 11 times to packages that included revenue for the good of the country, for the good of compromise.”

Last week, Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry spoke about a 1983 letter Reagan wrote to then-Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker (R-TN) asking for his “help and support, and that of your colleagues, in the passage of an increase in the limit on the public debt.”

Illinois Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin, Maryland Democratic Rep. Donna Edwards and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney have all made similar arguments.

Congress has until August 2 to raise the debt limit before the U.S. defaults, according to the Treasury Department.