The PJ Tatler

Obama Calls Boehner, Says He Won't Negotiate on Debt Ceiling

Tell us something we don’t know, Barry:

President Barack Obama is once again warning House Republicans that he will not negotiate over a debt-ceiling increase, even as the U.S. government moves closer to its borrowing limit.

Obama called Speaker John Boehner Friday night to reiterate his hard-line stance. The Ohio Republican’s office said the president called to say “he wouldn’t negotiate with him on the debt limit.”

“Given the long history of using debt limit increases to achieve bipartisan deficit reduction and economic reforms, the speaker was disappointed but told the president that the two chambers of Congress will chart the path ahead,” a Boehner aide said in an email. “It was a brief call.”

A White House official said Obama spoke to both Boehner and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“The President telephoned Speaker Boehner and told him again that the full faith and credit of the United States should not and will not be subject to negotiation,” the official said in a statement provided to POLITICO. “The President reiterated that it is the constitutional responsibility of the US Congress to pass the nation’s budget and pay the nation’s bills.”

This is not a new position for Obama, or a new response from Boehner. The two men have negotiated in the past to raise the nation’s debt cap, but Obama now sees any more negotiations as unwise. The president’s position is that Congress should raise the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling without any accompanying budget changes or reforms — a so-called “clean” debt ceiling increase. Yet it’s unclear if such a hike could pass in the House or the Senate.

Pelosi’s office declined to comment on her discussion with the president, but after the call she sent out a letter to fellow Democrats asking them to give her maximum flexibility by keeping their “powder dry” as the debate over government funding and a debt-limit increase continues.

Making himself irrelevant is something the president does very well. Harry Reid would have done most of the heavy lifting anyway, so Obama’s non-participation is exposed as more theater from the master of useless gestures.

Besides, Reid will no doubt receive instructions on just how far he can bend before Obama whips out the veto pen. The Majority Leader does not want to tie any kind of sequester reform to the debt ceiling vote, but some Democrats may be of a mind to do so. It’s hard to see the GOP giving in on the sequester in any way, but what if entitlement reform was on the table? There are all sorts of possibilities that Reid, who’s the only Democrat who matters in this fight, might consider.

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