Obama Administration Blinks on Debt Ceiling

In 2011, President Obama reiterated many times he would not negotiate on raising the debt ceiling with no concessions. Eventually, though, House conservatives held the line long enough to extract the Budget Control Act – which cuts too little, and raised the debt ceiling, but also was a step in the right direction.

This year, the President has also said he does not want to negotiate. However, on Monday, this may have changed:

President Obama would accept a short-term increase in the federal borrowing cap, rather than one lasting a year or more, a senior White House official said Monday.

National Journal’s Ron Fournier explained why this change took place:

Obama has at least two incentives to talk. First, there is the matter of optics. Voters want to believe that their leaders are open-minded, a trait they particularly expect in a president who promised to change the culture of Washington. Obama simply undermines his credibility by stiff-arming the GOP. Their obstinacy is no excuse for his. During the last protracted government shutdown, President Clinton talked almost every day with GOP rivals Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole.

Second, Obama has an opportunity to deftly steer an embattled and divided GOP away from Obamacare and to an issue worthy of high-stakes negotiations: The nation’s long-term budget crisis. While it’s true that the deficit has dropped in recent months, nothing has been done to secure Social Security and Medicare beyond the next 10 years. Punting this red-ink quandary to the next president would mar Obama’s legacy.

Tea Party Patriots opposes raising the debt ceiling, but this blink by the President is good news for three reasons:

First, it is more evidence that standing strong in the House can lead to the President making concessions. This only happened because of Tea Party allies in the House holding the line on Obamacare. Speaker Boehner should remember this for future negotiations.

Second, this little flinch by the President can be made larger. While the debt ceiling shouldn’t be raised, certainly getting as much as possible in spending reductions and/or entitlement reforms out of any raises is a distant – but still useful – second-best.

Third, if Points one and two become reality, the President will likely claim credit for deficit reduction efforts. While he has never been serious about deficit reduction, who gets credit is not as important as actual achievement.

Naturally, the President’s allies in Congress are likely to keep claiming Tea Partiers are terrorists, hostage-takers, etc. for pushing the President to actually negotiate. In fact, they are the ones holding the nation hostage – the current generation to their addiction to spending, and the future to their debt. The Senate is continuing this pattern of hostage-taking, aiming to pass a debt ceiling increase with no cuts or reforms attached to it.

In the past, the cry has been “Raise the debt ceiling, spend more, or else.” With debt nearing $17 trillion, it should be “Cut spending or else.” The “else” being a fiscal crisis like nothing the country has seen. We hope President Obama’s adjustment on Monday will ripen into full-blown negotiations, meant to prevent this crisis from taking place. Speaker Boehner appears to believe Obama, since he decided to aim for a one-month ceiling increase tethered to equal dollar cuts.

Tea Party Patriots has always been willing to stand with those who want to be fiscally responsible, and if it takes political pressure to get the President even close to fiscal responsibility, that’s a win for the future generations. We’ll be glad to give him credit where it is due, because the country’s future is far more important than a politician, political party, or pat on the back.