There’s one line from House Speaker John Boehner’s speech last night that deserves real attention, both because it’s completely false and because it’s becoming a recurring Republican talking point on the debt ceiling:
The president is adamant that we cannot make fundamental changes to our entitlement programs. As the father of two daughters, I know these programs won’t be there for them and their kids unless significant action is taken now.
The sad truth is that the president wanted a blank check six months ago, and he wants a blank check today. That is just not going to happen.
First — much to the chagrin of liberals — the president has already said he’s willing to make cuts to entitlement programs. That is not the sticking point — rather, it’s that the GOP is adamant that the burden of the deficit must be borne exclusively by people who rely on those programs and not include any increases in revenue for the wealthy.
But the far more dishonest statement is Boehner’s line that the debt ceiling amounts to a “blank check.” This is a straight-up lie. Not the everyday, casual fudging that politicians do, but a straight up lie. As the Government Accountability Office explains: “The debt limit does not control or limit the ability of the federal government to run deficits or incur obligations. Rather, it is a limit on the ability to pay obligations already incurred.”
This isn’t a perfect metaphor, but not raising the debt ceiling is more like refusing to pay your credit card bill than it is akin to asking for a blank check. Congress appropriates funds; if they don’t want Obama to spend more, it’s within Congress’s power to withhold that money. That’s you know, in the Constitution. I believe the GOP insisted on it being read at the beginning of the 112th Congress, but they don’t seem to have been paying attention.
To the extent that this crisis, and the risk of default, exists, it’s because Republicans insisted on turning a procedural vote into a hostage standoff, after helping George W. Bush rack up a deficit of more than 5 trillion dollars. It’s not because Obama is unwilling to cut entitlements. And it’s certainly not because Obama wants a “blank check” and Boehner is denying him one.