President Obama on Monday used strong language to attack the GOP’s demands that spending cuts be tied to any agreement to raise the federal government’s $16.4 trillion debt limit.
“What I will not do is to have that negotiation [over the debt ceiling] with a gun at the head of the American people,” he told reporters at the White House, reiterating his previously expressed refusal to negotiate on the issue. “[Republicans] will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy.”
“Republicans in Congress have two choices here,” he added. “They can act responsibly and pay America’s bills or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis.”
The GOP should “finish this debate,” Obama argued, by acting quickly to raise the limit with no strings attached; doing otherwise would be “irresponsible” and “absurd.” Once that is done, he would “be happy to have [a] conversation” about how to further reduce the deficit “in a balanced way.”
“I don’t think anybody would consider my position unreasonable here,” he said. However, according to at least one poll Republicans are touting as they gear up for a debt-ceiling showdown, more than two-thirds of Americans agree that “any increase in the nation’s debt limit must be accompanied by spending cuts and reforms of a greater amount.”
The president, who as a U.S. senator described raising the nation’s debt limit a “sign of leadership failure,” warned that any disruption in the government’s ability to issue new debt would be “disastrous.” Social Security checks and veterans’ benefits could be delayed. “We might not be able to pay our troops,” he said.
Those on the left urging the White House to neutralize the debt ceiling via executive action — invoking the 14th Amendment or minting a $1 trillion platinum coin — were likely discouraged by today’s comments from the president, who insisted there are no “magic tricks” or “loopholes” to get around the issue.
Republicans were quick to dismiss the president’s call for a stand-alone debt-limit increase.
“The national debt threatens the future of our children and grandchildren — and House Republicans will not jeopardize our future because the Democratic majority in Washington wants a blank check for out-of-control spending,” Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R., Wash.), chair of the House Republican conference, said in a statement. “Republicans are prepared to lead and cut the record deficits and debt that we have accumulated over the last four years.”