White House opens door to short-term debt extension

Font Size:

White House spokesman Jay Carney opened the door today to a stopgap debt-ceiling measure.

“We believe a short-term extension absent an agreement to a larger deal is unacceptable,” Carney told reporters at Wednesday’s press conference. “If both sides agree to something concretely significant, we will support the measures needed to finalize the details,” he said, adding that “there is still time to get something big done.”

That’s a 180-degree turn away from President Barack Obama’s July 11 statement rejecting a stopgap deal. “I’m happy to consider all options, all alternatives that they’re looking at,” Obama said in a White House press conference. “The things that I will not consider are a 30-day or a 60-day or a 90-day or a 180-day temporary stopgap resolution to this problem. This is the United States of America, and we don’t manage our affairs in three-month increments.”

Carney spun the concession today by saying the President had opposed short-term debt ceiling extensions that would require repeated debate and further decisions in Washington. (Carney: Obama a better leader for not proposing debt ceiling plan)

“The President will not sign just a temporary measure that requires a repetitive process where we cast doubt on the capacity of Washington to deal with raising its debt ceiling,” Carney said.

Carney used the press conference to continue pushing for a “big” deal that would trim up to $4 trillion from an expected 10-year deficit of $12 trillion. The “big” deal would also raise taxes, split the GOP and showcase to swing-voters Obama’s claimed role a nonpartisan leader.

Such a “big” deal might also reinvigorate confidence in the economy, promote investment and spur growth, Carney said. “If we send a signal from Washington that Washington works, that Washington can tackle big problems, that will have a significantly positive impact around the globe,” he said. “And it will remind people about why the United States is the best country to invest in.”

When contacted by The Daily Caller, one senior GOP aide confirmed the theory that a stopgap measure is in the works. “A likely scenario is that [Treasury Secretary Tim] Geithner magically finds something he can do to extend the deadline two or three more weeks,” said the aide. “Then they fill out the ‘G6’ [‘Gang of Six’] proposal.”

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, however, cast doubt on the idea. When asked if a stopgap measure could be agreed upon while lawmakers iron out the Gang of Six proposal, the spokesperson said “not really,” suggesting that the McConnell–Reid backup plan could come first.

Obama’s political ratings have declined as unemployment has risen above 9 percent. A Gallup poll of 897 registered announced July 14, for example, showed Obama attracting only 39 percent of the vote, compared with 47 percent gained by an unnamed Republican candidate. A Rasmussen poll of 3,500 likely voters, released July 19, showed Obama with only 41 percent of the vote, versus 47 percent for a Republican.

As one move toward that “big” deal, Carney again applauded the Senate’s “Gang of Six.” Their proposal would curb spending by up to $3 trillion and raise taxes by $1 trillion, according to its supporters — or more than $2 trillion, according to critics such as Andrew Moylan, vice president of government affairs at the National Taxpayers Union.

Carney also urged Congress to prepare a smaller “backup plan” that would raise the debt ceiling in any event. On Tuesday, he said any “fallback” deal need not include a tax increase.

Neil Munro and Amanda Carey