By using the fiscal cliff as the first stage of his political strategy, President Obama is already two steps ahead of Republicans on the debt ceiling.
Moments after the House passed the fiscal cliff deal, President Obama had already started winning the battle over the debt ceiling.
Before the Republican congressional leadership had a chance to utter a word about the debt ceiling, the president said,
But we can’t simply cut our way to prosperity. Cutting spending has to go hand-in-hand with further reforms to our tax code so that the wealthiest corporations and individuals can’t take advantage of loopholes and deductions that aren’t available to most Americans. And we can’t keep cutting things like basic research and new technology and still expect to succeed in a 21st century economy. So we’re going to have to continue to move forward in deficit reduction, but we have to do it in a balanced way, making sure that we are growing even as we get a handle on our spending.
Now, one last point I want to make — while I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they’ve already racked up through the laws that they passed. Let me repeat: We can’t not pay bills that we’ve already incurred. If Congress refuses to give the United States government the ability to pay these bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic — far worse than the impact of a fiscal cliff.
Unlike what happened during the healthcare debate and the first debt ceiling crisis, President Obama was not about to give Republicans a moment to breathe and formulate their strategy on the debt ceiling. While Republicans were still fighting among themselves over the fiscal cliff deal, the president was already taking his case about the debt ceiling to the American people.
Obama’s seizing of the issue has established the media narrative, and left Republicans playing catch up. During his Sunday show interviews today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was asked repeatedly about raising more revenue as part of a debt ceiling deal. McConnell was left playing defense, and forced to repeat the same just say no obstruction/blame Obama talking points that he has been using for years.
It is becoming obvious that while congressional Republicans are bumbling from one self created crisis to the next, the White House is using a comprehensive strategy for dealing with the fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling, and the sequester.
As Republicans continued to point fingers and blame for the fiscal cliff deal, President Obama had already moved on to the debt ceiling. The president is two steps ahead of his adversaries, and it looks like the debt ceiling is going to turn into a game of political chicken. Obama is going to sound reasonable in tone, but dare congressional Republicans to default. Republicans have now caved on the payroll tax extension in 2011 and the fiscal cliff in 2012, so the White House is betting, with good reason, that they will blink again on the debt ceiling.
The president has public support, the better message, organization, and plan. Obama is running circles around the Republicans while dysfunction, disagreement, and chaos have paralyzed their party. Republicans will bluster about letting the nation default, but no one believes for a second that the big money interests who really run the party will ever let that happen.
Congressional Republicans have demonstrated repeatedly that they don’t have the stomach to carry out their threats. A much wiser President Obama has learned to ignore the right’s empty threats while exploiting the fragmented disorganization of their caucus.
While Republicans are trying to dig themselves out of their fiscal cliff hole, Obama is digging in for another win on the debt ceiling.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association