Yes, but it’s different when Democrats try to hold the debt limit hostage. Their motives are above reproach. They only wanted what was best for the country. They were concerned about the deficit. They were concerned about spending.
Where have we heard this before?
On Friday the Democratic leadership of the Senate — Majority Leader Harry Reid, Assistant Majority Leader Richard Durbin, Conference Chair Charles Schumer, and Conference Secretary Patty Murray — wrote to President Obama urging him to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling in the event that Republicans either block such an increase or attempt to pass one “as part of unbalanced or unreasonable legislation.”
“We believe that you must make clear that you will never allow our nation’s economy and reputation to be held hostage,” the Democrats wrote. “We believe you must be willing to take any lawful steps to ensure that America does not break its promises and trigger a global economic crisis — without congressional approval, if necessary.”
Put aside the picture of leading lawmakers, usually so jealous of their constitutional prerogatives, asking the president to ignore Congress. What is striking about the letter is that every one of its signers — Reid, Durbin, Schumer, and Murray — voted against raising the nation’s debt ceiling just seven years ago.
On March 16, 2006, the Senate held a vote on a measure to raise the debt ceiling by $781 billion — the fourth such vote of George W. Bush’s presidency. Republicans controlled the Senate, and Democrats spent much of the debate railing against Bush’s spending. “When it comes to deficits, this president owns all the records,” said Reid. “The three largest deficits in our nation’s history have all occurred under this administration’s watch.”
Declaring themselves outraged by such spending, Reid, Durbin, Schumer, and Murray all voted against raising the debt limit. So did every other Democrat — including Sen. Barack Obama. But on Friday, the four lawmakers urged now-President Obama not only to raise the ceiling but to do it in a constitutionally risky fashion by going over the head of Congress.
Reid admitted last year it was all a political show back in 2006 and that he was “kind of embarrassed” about the whole thing. Too bad he isn’t ashamed of himself as well. All this talk about “holding the economy hostage” is just that — talk. What Reid and Obama want is a blank check for the executive — giving Obama the the power to raise the debt limit however often he wishes and to whatever level he desires.
More egregiously, Obama wishes to uncouple the debt limit from fiscal responsibility. In the hands of the executive, the debt limit would become an afterthought — a minor budget function, a housecleaning item on the president’s agenda.
Obama does not wish to have a debate on spending. He doesn’t believe we have even have a spending problem.
What stunned House Speaker John Boehner more than anything else during his prolonged closed-door budget negotiations with Barack Obama was this revelation: “At one point several weeks ago,” Mr. Boehner says, “the president said to me, ‘We don’t have a spending problem.'” The president’s insistence that Washington doesn’t have a spending problem, Mr. Boehner says, is predicated on the belief that massive federal deficits stem from what Mr. Obama called “a health-care problem.” Mr. Boehner says that after he recovered from his astonishment—”They blame all of the fiscal woes on our health-care system”—he replied: “Clearly we have a health-care problem, which is about to get worse with ObamaCare. But, Mr. President, we have a very serious spending problem.” He repeated this message so often, he says, that toward the end of the negotiations, the president became irritated and said: “I’m getting tired of hearing you say that.”
It is truly frightening to think we have a president so detached from reality that he blames health care for 4 straight years of trillion dollar deficits.
We are going to run out of money sometime in March. It appears probable that the president will ignore the entreaties from Senate Democrats to unilaterally do something to raise the debt limit and bank on Republicans caving in and voting for an increase when he refuses to negotiate with them. If the GOP won’t play ball, any subsequent economic damage he will lay at their feet. It’s a cynical, dangerous, irresponsible political ploy — all because the president thinks the Democrats will be able to use Republican intransigence on the debt limit to win a smashing victory in 2014.
It may or may not work. The only sure thing is that no one is going call out the Democrats for their hypocrisy in voting against the debt limit increase 7 years ago.