President Barack Obama used his televised speech to the nation Monday night to paint a lurid picture of U.S. debt default if the GOP doesn’t raise the debt ceiling enough to continue the administration’s spending until after the president completes his 2012 campaign.
Obama did not threaten to veto a short-term measure, but presented an alarming vision of a default, urged a tax increase, and then called on Americans to press their legislators to pass a debt ceiling deal that would be large enough to cover spending until 2013.
That $2.4 trillion debt-plan has been developed by Democratic Senate Leader Harry Reid, and is large enough to pay for spending until 2013, but it does not include a tax increase.
“We can’t allow the American people to become collateral damage to Washington political warfare … I want you all to make your voice heard,” by reaching out to Congress, he said, without repeating his earlier demands for tax increases, his earlier objections to budget cuts, or his earlier opposition to a stopgap measure.
Moments later, House Speaker John Boehner pushed back hard, saying it is time “to end the spending binge in Washington.” Boehner briefly outlined his own two-step plan to raise the debt limit and set similar cuts, finishing by saying “we’re up to the task, and I hope President Obama will join us in that work.”
Obama’s eleventh-hour appeal to voters is a gamble because his political credibility will be damaged if Americans fail to pressure their elected legislators enough to win a debt ceiling deal worth $2.4 trillion.
But it is also a partial defeat, because he and his political allies have abandoned their earlier demands for tax increases.
White House officials want a deal that stretches into 2013 because that would prevent another debt ceiling debate in the months leading up to the election. (Full text of Boehner’s speech)
Obama is positioning himself to run in 2012 as a fiscal moderate, a D.C. consensus builder, and as the public’s defender in a corrupt Washington. He also needs to unite his diverse coalition. But all those goals would be hindered by another debt ceiling debate in which he would be forced to ask for even more debt, to entangle himself in controversial budget politics, and to argue with his left-of-center base over what possible budget cuts Democrats might concede to the GOP.
But today’s high-stakes push by Obama risks his 2012 standing long before Republicans pick a candidate to run against him in 2012. Obama’s public approval ratings have stalled below 50 percent for more than a year, and the public’s estimate of his economic policies has tumbled into the 30-percent range.
Boehner took a hard line. He dismissed the pending Democratic bill being developed in the Senate as “phony accounting and Washington gimmicks.” Boehner blamed Obama for failing to agree to earlier deals, and then slammed him for “the crisis atmosphere that he has created.” (Full text of Obama’s speech)
On Wednesday the House of Representatives is expected to vote on Boehner’s proposal. Several Republicans have said they believe it is too weak and will oppose it. Most Democrats will also oppose the measure.
During Obama’s tenure in Washington, Boehner added, “the president wanted a blank check … [but] that is just not going to happen.”
Watch Obama, Boehner engage in debt talk blame game: