Published on February 4th, 2013 | by Alex Veeneman
VIDEO: Obama Says US Can Pay Off Debts
Alex Veeneman, Opinions Editor
Video above courtesy of New York Times: President Obama addresses the need to increase the debt limit and other issues during a news conference Jan. 14 at the White House.
President Barack Obama has said the United States is not a deadbeat nation and can pay off its debt, telling congressional Republicans the chamber should approve an increase in the debt ceiling without delay.
Speaking at a news conference Jan. 14, Obama said that negotiations with Republicans would not happen under hostility.
“While I’m willing to compromise and find common ground over how to reduce our deficits, America cannot afford another debate with this Congress about whether or not they should pay the bills they’ve already racked up,” Obama said, according to a White House transcript.
When asked if an executive order would be signed, Obama said that he would if Congress gave him the authority to do that, citing part of a proposal by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the negotiations to solve the fiscal cliff after New Year’s Day.
“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,” Obama said. “But if they want to keep this responsibility, then they need to go ahead and get it done.”
A letter from top Democrats in the Senate to Obama sent Jan. 11 said he needed to take immediate action.
“In the event that Republicans make good on their threat by failing to act, or by moving unilaterally to pass a debt limit extension only as part of unbalanced or unreasonable legislation, 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,” the letter read.
Obama added, according to a report from the BBC, that the U.S.’ credit was not a bargaining chip.
“The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip, and they [Republicans] better decide quickly because time is running short,” Obama said.
In a statement, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said that an increase to the debt ceiling should come with a cut in federal government spending.
“The American people do not support raising the debt ceiling without reducing government spending at the same time,” Boehner said. “The consequences of failing to increase the debt ceiling are real, but so too are the consequences of allowing our spending problem to go unresolved. Without meaningful action, the debt will continue to act as an anchor on our economy, costing American jobs and endangering our children’s future.”
Boehner added that the House would pass legislation that would control spending, keep the government operating and meets the U.S.’ obligations, and will ask the same of the Democrats.
With the debt ceiling debate being renewed, there is uncertainty surrounding much of the federal programs, including Pell grants and higher education. It had been indicated earlier that higher education spending had been protected under federal budget laws passed last year, though it is not clear if it still applies. The U.S. is to hit its $16.4 trillion borrowing limit in February unless there is Congressional action, the BBC report adds.
Representatives for the U.S. Department of Education; Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and the Senate Committee on Health, Education Labor and Pensions did not respond to requests seeking comment. A representative for the House Committee on Education and the Workforce declined to comment.
Dr. Joseph Gaziano of Lewis’ political science department says there are similarities between the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling negotiations.
“The Republicans will try to use the debt ceiling to get their way on spending cuts,” Gaziano said. ”The problem is similar to the fiscal cliff in that both the Republicans and Democrats cannot let the country go over the cliff or default.”
Gaziano added that it will be business as usual, though a compromise may be made.
“At some point in the negotiations, they have to reach a compromise,” Gaziano said. “I suspect we will see the same kind of political bickering we saw with the cliff problem. Despite all the talk and dire predictions, it will be business as usual.”
Boehner was re-elected House Speaker Jan. 3. Obama was inaugurated for his second term Jan. 21.