President Obama today on the debt limit:
Republicans in Congress have two choices here. They can act responsibly, and pay America’s bills, or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis. But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. The financial wellbeing of the American people is not leverage to be used. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip. And they better choose quickly, because time is running short.
And by the time the president finished his press conference, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner had already responded.
First, Mr. Turtle:
The President and his allies need to get serious about spending, and the debt-limit debate is the perfect time for it.
And second, the Weeper of the House
The American people do not support raising the debt ceiling without reducing government spending at the same time. The consequences of failing to increase the debt ceiling are real, but so too are the consequences of allowing our spending problem to go unresolved. Without meaningful action, the debt will continue to act as an anchor on our economy, costing American jobs and endangering our children's future. The House will do its job and pass responsible legislation that controls spending, meets our nation's obligations and keeps the government running, and we will insist that the Democratic majority in Washington do the same.
As you can see, McConnell's statement is boilerplate fluff, devoid of specifics. Sure, he says now is "the perfect time" for a debate on spending, but in his world is there ever a bad time for such a debate? (Actually, there is: when a Republican is president. But I digress.)
Boehner, on the other hand, makes a specific pledge: that House Republicans will raise the debt limit, albeit in concert with other spending cuts. Presumably he means these items will be passed as part of one bill—not as separate measures. Once the House passes its bill, Boehner seems to think his job is done—it'll be up to Democrats whether or not to accept his ransom note.
There's a tiny flaw with Boehner's gambit, however. Well, not just a tiny flaw. It's a big, ugly one: As Greg Sargent points out, once the Senate receives the House bill, they will move to amend it with a clean debt limit increase. If Republicans filibuster, then they will once again be the party responsible for default. And if they don't filibuster, then House Republicans will be back where they started, needing to raise the debt limit—or force default and everything that comes with it.
The only hope Republicans have of prevailing is if President Obama caves on his refusal to negotiate with hostage-takers. Otherwise, the only question is whether or not they will send the country into default. And if they aren't willing to put the country into default, they should end the charade now. The longer they take, the worse the politics will be for them—and, more importantly, the worse it will be for the country.