That was the president’s message Monday morning. Speaking during a news conference, Obama made clear his view of messing around with the nation’s ability to borrow money. He’s not going there.
Republicans in Congress see things differently. They want cuts to domestic spending in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. “The president and his allies need to get serious about spending, and the debt-limit debate is the perfect time for it,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Monday. “I do know that the most important issue confronting the future of our country is our deficit and debt.”
Obama, who has been rolled once before by Republicans over the debt ceiling, sounded Monday like a man drawing a line in the sand. “If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America’s bills on time, Social Security checks and veterans benefits will be delayed. We might not be able to pay our troops,” he said.
The president turned up the heat, noting: “To even entertain this happening — of the United States of America not paying its bills — is irresponsible. It’s absurd.”
It seems Obama is a politician well aware of his position, his place in history and his political rivals’ vulnerabilities. If we didn’t know any better, we’d suggest the president is goading Republicans deeper into a slough of despond.
The lay of the land is tricky for Republicans. A year ago, party faithful were confident that Obama’s presidency would be ending this week. Over the primary season and into the general campaign, GOP-friendly media put them in a bubble, assuring them that polls favoring Obama were skewed and that Mitt Romney would prevail despite the tangle of far-right ideology imposed on him during the primary.
Thus, the presidential election was a big letdown. Some Republicans saw Romney’s loss as a reason to moderate and reach out to racial minorities who strongly supported Obama. Others saw it is a cause to swing even harder to the right.
The fiscal cliff debate in recent weeks saw elected Republicans split over compromise with the president that included a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans. Grumbles about Republican leaders in the House and Senate are growing louder.
Nothing lasts forever in politics. However, for at least the short term, Republicans are enduring a frustrating and challenging time of adjusting to the new electoral math.
Monday, Obama said Republicans have “a particular view of what government should do and should be. And, you know, that view was rejected by the American people when it was debated during the presidential campaign.”
Those are surely hard words for any political party to accept. Yet they are just as accurate as they may be painful to hear.