The White House released a statement: “If S. 627 is presented to the President, the President’s senior advisors would recommend that he veto this bill.” Several former White House officials confirm that this is “standard” veto language. One e-mails me, “It’s not unusual language at all. Been used many, many times by R and D presidents.” Is there some leeway for Obama to reverse himself on debt ceiling legislation? Well, yes. A Senate veteran says it is a “soft” veto threat.
But what Obama said is far less puzzling than what in the world he is thinking. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his team are moving heaven and earth to get the Boehner bill through the House. No one, including the leadership, knows whether they will have the votes tomorrow. But if the White House imagines it’s possilble to get any other deal through the House at this late stage, Obama and his advisers have lost it — lost judgment, lost common sense and lost their way.
And what would the president have them do? The White House has no plan, as the president’s press secretary comically revealed today:
If the White House press secretary can’t get the White House press corps to buy into the White House pass-the-buck scheme, good luck trying to convince the rest of the country that there really is an “Obama plan.” What Jay Carney suggests, namely that the two sides have to go rummaging through papers to find a deal from the scraps of negotiating notes, just days before the debt ceiling limit is reached, is ridiculous on his face.
Ironically, this may just help Boehner round up the votes he needs. And what about poor Harry Reid? He came up with a plan, in writing and everything, the contents of which the president stomped all over last night. What does the Senate majority leader tell his troops? Ya got me.
There are a couple of possibilities. First, Obama is feverishly trying to get back the deal he blew up last Friday by putting $400 billion more in taxes on the table. But you know, that’s as dead as “cut, cap and balance.” The House is just beginning to whip its bill. Alternatively, Obama is egging on a debt crisis, understanding that in fact we can “prioritize” to meet our debt and Social Security obligations. I refuse to believe that the president is that malicious and irresponsible. That leaves the first option: Obama bollixed up the negotiations. Oh, well, I guess he’ll have to veto the Boehner bill. Or not.
UPDATE: Brendan Buck, Boehner spokesman, put out a statement saying there is no rationale for the veto threat and it is not really a veto threat since it leaves “wide open” the option for the president to sign it. He accuses the White House of putting out a position but refusing to put out a bottom line. He adds as the official on-the-record statement:
“The House plan is the only one with a pathway to the President’s desk, and we appreciate his apparent willingness to sign it. By signing the House bill, the President could quickly end the crisis atmosphere he’s created and demonstrate he’s serious about cutting spending.”