President Obama’s press conference can be summarized as follows: 1) I will not negotiate for a debt limit although I voted against it myself (““Democrats don’t like voting for the debt ceiling when a Republican is president. And yet, you, but you never saw a situation in which Democrats suggested somehow that we would go ahead and default if we didn’t get 100 percent of our way. That’s just not how it’s supposed to work.”); 2) I will not negotiate and everyone else should stop being an “absolutist”; 3) I will not negotiate and the Republicans can be responsible for shutting down the government.
Republican leadership watched on with a joint eye-roll. Really, what is the point in dealing with a president who already said he’s not negotiating? This seems to be Exhibit A for why the House should pass a bill in regular order, send it to the Senate – where Democrats will actually vote on something — and then negotiate in conference.
Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) said just that in a written response:
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.
Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office also put out a statement, which read:
The President and his allies need to get serious about spending, and the debt-limit debate is the perfect time for it. I do know that the most important issue confronting the future of our country is our deficit and debt. So we are hoping for a new seriousness on the part of the President with regard to the single biggest issue confronting the country and we look forward to working with him to do something about this huge, huge problem.
For once the right-wing grassroots activists sounded just like the GOP leadership. The Heritage Action Network put out a statement that virtually every Republican on the Hill could agree with: “ Rather than lecturing Americans and their elected representatives, President Obama should propose concrete solutions to our nation’s pressing fiscal problems. Invoking the false specter of default is not leadership; it’s theatrics. Demanding another debt limit increase is not responsible; it’s reckless. Americans expect and deserve more from their commander-in-chief.”
By that, Heritage is referring to the easy step to avoid default: A provision like the one Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) came up with in 2011 which would mandate debt obligations be paid off first in the event the debt ceiling did not rise. The president of course wants the choice to be binary: His way (more taxes) or default.
If it weren’t so predictable, it would be mighty frustrating for congressional leaders. This is not a president capable or enamored of working with the other side. It will be a rocky four years, but Republicans should get used to it.