During his press conference this morning, President Obama took the opportunity to explain how the debt ceiling works since so many people both in and outside of politics seem to be unaware.
The issue here is whether or not America pays its bills. We are not a deadbeat nation. And…. there’s a very simple solution to this: congress authorizes us to pay our bills.
If the House and the Senate want to give me the authority so that they don’t have to take these tough votes, if they want to put the responsibility on me to raise the debt ceiling I’m happy to take it.
Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, had a proposal like that last year, and I’m happy to accept it, but if they want to keep this responsibility then they need to go ahead and get it done.
And there are no magic tricks here. There are no loopholes. There are no easy outs. This is a matter of congress authorizes spending. They order me to spend. They tell me you need to fund our defense department at such an such a level. You need to send out social security checks. You need to make sure that you’re paying to care for our veterans. They lay all this out for me, because they have the spending power. And so I am required by law to go ahead and pay these bills. Separately, they also have to authorize a raising of the debt ceiling in order to make sure those bills are paid.
So what congress can’t do is tell me to spend X and then say we’re not going to give you the authority to go ahead and pay the bills.
He also made it very clear, once again, that he will not play games over the debt ceiling and said that Republicans “will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy.”
If Congressional Republicans refused 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 or honor our contracts with small business owners. Food inspectors, air traffic controllers, specialists who track down loose nuclear materials wouldn’t get their paychecks.
Investors around the world will ask if the United States of America is in fact a safe bet. Markets could go haywire. Interests rates would spike for anybody who borrows money. Every homeonwer with a mortgage, every student with a college loan, every small business owner who wants to grow and hire.
It would be a self-inflicted wound on he economy. It would slow down our growth, might tip us into recession and, ironically, would probably increase our deficit.
So to even entertain the idea of this happening, of the United States of America not paying its bills, is irresponsible. It’s absurd. As the Speaker said two years ago, it would be — I’m quoting Speaker Boehner now — a financial disaster not only for us but for the world wide economy.
So we’ve got to pay our bills. And Republicans in congress have two choices here: they can act responsibly and pay America’s bills, or they can act irresponsibly and put America through another economic crisis. But they will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy. The financial well-being of the American people is not leverage to be used. The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip.
The president drives a pretty hard bargain, and if you are someone who incessantly calls for the president to use the “bully pulpit,” you should be elated, because this is as close to doing that as you can get.
The White House press corps, in all their professional glory, also asked the president today why he doesn’t socialize with people who hate him more. And considering that derptastic question, you can see why he felt the need to explain how basic governance works.