Both sides to play chicken with debt limit
Speaker Boehner has announced he won't negotiate one on one with the president anymore. Obama has said repeatedly that he won't negotiate on raising the debt limit.
The two sides are speeding toward each other waiting for the other guy to blink.
President Obama was pretty clear late on New Year's night as he reacted to Congress's passage of a bill to take a turn away from the fiscal cliff. He won't negotiate with Republicans about the debt ceiling.
"Now, one last point I want to make," said the president, before wrapping up and hopping on Air Force One for a redeye to Hawaii. "While I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they've already racked up through the laws that they passed."
That's pretty clear. No debt ceiling negotiation. Then he added for emphasis: "Let me repeat: We can't not pay bills that we've already incurred. If Congress refuses to give the United States government the ability to pay these bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy would be catastrophic - far worse than the impact of a fiscal cliff."
But in Washington, saying you won't do something these days has almost become like an opening bid. At least, that's how Republicans are treating the president's line in the sand.
"The president may not want to have a fight about government spending over the next few months, but it's the fight he is going to have because it's a debate the country needs," wrote Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Republican, in an op-Ed on Yahoo! News about 36 hours later. "For the sake of our future, the president must show up to this debate early and convince his party to do something that neither he nor they have been willing to do until now."
"We simply cannot increase the nation's borrowing limit without committing to long overdue reforms to spending programs that are the very cause of our debt," McConnell said.
Obama is exaggerating the effects of not upping the debt limit in the next few weeks. As we discovered during Round One of this debate, the Treasury Department has great latitude in how they pay the nation's bills. In this case, leverage appears to be on the side of the GOP and Obama will probably be forced to come to the table eventually.
What the GOP will do with that is anyone's guess, but at least there will be the opportunity for reform.