Obama use of the term extortion to describe the House Republican debt ceiling demands was a step forward in a strategy that has already made it a near certainty that he will win this standoff.
OBAMA: And I’ve heard people say, well, in the past, there have been negotiations around raising the debt ceiling. It’s always a tough vote because the average person thinks raising the debt ceiling must mean that we’re running up our debt, so people don’t like to vote on it, and, typically, there’s some gamesmanship in terms of making the President’s party shoulder the burden of raising the — taking the vote. And then there’s some political campaign later that smacks them around for saying, Joe Smith voted to raise the debt ceiling by $2 trillion. And it sounds terrible and it’s a fun talking point for politics, but it always gets done.
And if there is a budget package that includes the debt ceiling vote, it’s not the debt ceiling that is driving the negotiations; it’s just it’s stuck into the budget negotiations, because if you’re going to take a bunch of tough votes anyway, you might as well go ahead and stick that in there.
You have never seen in the history of the United States the debt ceiling or the threat of not raising the debt ceiling being used to extort a President or a governing party, and trying to force issues that have nothing to do with the budget and have nothing to do with the debt.
So here’s where we are — and I think this is the bottom line, and I want to make sure everybody is clear here. I have presented a budget that deals with — continues to deal with our deficit effectively. I am prepared to work with Democrats and Republicans to deal with our long-term entitlement issues. And I am prepared to look at priorities that the Republicans think we should be promoting and priorities that they think we should be — we shouldn’t be promoting. So I’m happy to negotiate with them around the budget, just as I’ve done in the past.
What I will not do is to create a habit, a pattern, whereby the full faith and credit of the United States ends up being a bargaining chip to set policy. It’s irresponsible. The last time we did this in 2011, we had negative growth at a time when the recovery was just trying to take off. And it would fundamentally change how American government functions.
And if you doubt that, just flip the script for a second and imagine a situation in which a Democratic Speaker said to a Republican President, I’m not going to increase the debt ceiling unless you increase corporate taxes by 20 percent. And if you don’t do it, we’ll default on the debt and cause a worldwide financial crisis. Even though that Democratic Speaker didn’t have the votes to force through that particular piece of legislation, they would simply say, we will blow the whole thing up unless you do what I want. That can’t be a recipe for government.
President Obama effectively ended any Republican hopes of getting a political victory on the debt ceiling when he called their demands extortion. Nobody likes being extorted. The American people don’t like feeling like they are being shaken down. The White House knows this, which is why they are using such strong language to criticize the Republicans. Obama is doing the same thing to House Republicans that he has been doing to the entire party for the last few years. The president is defining them before they can define themselves.
Obama is taking the same tactics that he used to define Mitt Romney in the summer of 2012 and applying them to John Boehner and his House Republicans. While Republicans are fighting among themselves and gearing up for another pointless run at defunding Obamacare, the president is already winning the political battle over the debt ceiling. His comments today were a masterstroke of strategy that will pay political dividends now and in the future. If the president is successful anytime a Republican talks about defunding Obamacare, the American people will think extortion. Republicans keep insisting on unconstitutional plots to kill Obamacare, and the president is calling them out on it.
Republicans haven’t realized it yet, but while they are chasing the fool’s gold of defunding Obamacare they have already lost on the debt ceiling. By caving to the lunatic fringe in his party, John Boehner may have handed control of the House of Representatives back to Democrats on a silver platter.
While Republicans posture on Obamacare, Obama is routing them 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