With the cliff behind us, the focus turns to spending. The president says he isn’t going to have a debate with us over the debt ceiling. He also says he’s not going to cut spending along with the debt limit hike.This morning we’re releasing the results of a survey by the Winston Group taken December 29-30 among 1,000 registered voters. Seventy-two percent of Americans agree any increase in the nation’s debt limit must be accompanied by spending cuts and reforms of a greater amount. That’s the principle I laid out before the Economic Club of New York in May of 2011, and I’ve repeated a number of times since. The debate is already underway.
Meanwhile, Republicans gleefully point to Democrats who are shaking their heads over the president’s bizarre comment that he won’t negotiate over the debt ceiling.
The Post reports that even Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has figured it out:
When Reid got news Monday morning that the terms called for a delay of mere months for the sequester, he called the president. What are you going to do in two months, Reid asked Obama, when the sequester is about kick in along with a new deadline on the federal debt limit?Reid worried that Republicans would demand trillions of dollars in new spending cuts. I’m not going to negotiate with them, Obama replied. Reid felt it wouldn’t be so easy. “Mr. President,” he said, according to aides, “We’re setting ourselves up.”
Indeed, you have to agree with the unnamed Democratic senator quoted in the New York Times who says it is a boast Obama likely won’t be able to defend:
Some people in both parties questioned why Mr. Obama would so emphatically vow not to negotiate over the debt limit, a promise he may ultimately be forced to break if necessary to avoid economic shock waves.“It’s bizarre,” said one veteran Democratic senator who would not be named, citing the proven willingness of Republicans to force a fiscal crisis unless the president makes a deal for additional spending cuts.
In short, Republicans feel they have the wind at their back. It is too much to hope that Obama will cease demands for higher taxes, but having given a little in January on taxes, Republicans are in a much stronger position in February and March to argue that we need to move on the spending side.
Obama may be technically correct that he won’t be negotiating. Republicans would like nothing better than to make this a congressional debate, force the Senate Democrats to ante up and then if need be bring in VP Joe Biden at the end to help close the deal. Obama has proven to be nothing but a hindrance in these negotiations. While Congress hashes this out, the president can play more golf.