WASHINGTON, D.C. —
Like a person’s credit card limit, the debt ceiling is not meant to be reached or exceeded. If the nation approaches or reaches the debt ceiling, it should signal lawmakers and the president to deal with the debt, not add to it.
As we’ve neared the debt ceiling each time under President Obama, however, he’s asked Congress to raise the limit without real reforms to the driver of our more than $17 trillion debt: government spending. Congress has shown a willingness to negotiate and recommended ways to lower the long-term deficit. Despite plenty of opportunities to contribute to the solution, the president has continually chosen to punt the problem. When lawmakers have voiced their disagreement with his short-term economic fixes, the president has shown no desire to find common ground. Each time, the president’s intransigence has pushed the country to the edge of default, risking the full faith and credit of the United States.
While the debt ceiling has been raised 53 times since 1978, the amount added under the Obama Administration has been especially burdensome. Since the first inauguration of the president in 2009, the national debt has increased by more than $6.5 trillion, larger than the amount added during the Clinton and Bush administrations combined. Not only does that figure indicate poor leadership by President Obama, but given his previous stances represented while serving in the U.S. Senate, it also demonstrates complete hypocrisy.
In 2006, then-Sen. Obama spoke on the Senate floor and refused to raise the debt ceiling for President George W. Bush, citing that “raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure.” He continued to explain, “Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.” Considering that the president recently asked Congress to raise the debt ceiling without any changes to fiscal policy, it’s clear that his current position as President Obama conflicts with his 2006 position as Sen. Obama.
Last week, both chambers of Congress voted on legislation that would raise the debt ceiling through March 15, 2015, without addressing fiscal policy or federal spending. Because it would allow the federal government to rack up more debt without reforming the drivers of our debt, I could not support it. In previous instances, any changes to the debt ceiling have been accompanied by reforms to spending or contributed to ongoing recovery efforts. The legislation brought up last week did neither.
Over the course of my time in Congress, I have been willing to work with the president and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to protect the full faith and credit of the United States. In 2011, we were able to achieve a debt ceiling deal that cut long-term spending, resulting in $2 trillion in savings. But these agreements can only be achieved if all parties come to the table and act in good faith with each other.
Republicans have shown time and again that we are willing to work in a bipartisan manner to solve our nation’s most pressing economic problems, but every negotiation requires a negotiating partner. Unfortunately, the president remains intransigent and refuses to find common sense solutions, causing his successor and all Americans to inherit an enormous and growing debt problem.
U.S. REP. TOM COLE, R-Moore, represents Oklahoma’s 4th Congressional District.