In my time writing speeches in the White House, I learned that there are veto “threats,” and there are veto threats. When a president is determined to veto legislation he dislikes, he says: “If this bill reaches my desk, I will veto it.” When a president wants to leave himself wiggle room to sign legislation he dislikes, the White House issues a statement saying the president’s “advisors” will “recommend” that he veto it. Big difference.
The first statement puts the president’s credibility on the line; the second preserves the president’s flexibility to sign a bill he opposed (because, after all, the president can “reject” the “advice” of his senior advisors).
The veto threat the White House issued was took the latter form, not the former. The White House issued a “statement of administration policy” which declared:
“The Administration strongly opposes House passage of the amendment in the nature of a substitute to S. 627. If S. 627 is presented to the President, the President’s senior advisors would recommend that he veto this bill .” (Emphasis in the original.)
This in and of itself sends a signal: The president is preserving his options. Which means that if House Republicans hold firm and pass the Boehner plan, Obama will sign it into law.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid declared the Boehner proposal “dead on arrival” in the Senate, but this more accurately describes his own plan. Reid does not have the votes to overcome a GOP filibuster in the Senate — and if Reid cannot pass his plan, then the Boehner plan is the only game in town. If the House passes the Boehner plan, and Reid’s plan is stalled, Senate Democrats will face a choice: Pass Boehner’s bill and send it to the president or take responsibility for causing a government default. Here’s my prediction: They will pass it. And Obama will sign it.
With default looming, I’ll even wager that his senior advisors will “recommend” he do so.