Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, R-OH emphasized in an interview on Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013 on ABC News' This Week with George Stephanopoulos the importance of President Barack Obama negotiating with House Republicans to end the government shutdown and raising the debt ceiling limit. While President Obama stated to the Associated Press' Julie Pace in an interview released on Sunday Oct. 6, that "I don't expect to get there," on unilaterally raising the debt limit, and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew on CNN's State of the Union said the Republicans are "playing with fire" with the debt ceiling limit.
If the fight to end the government shutdown seems difficult, the solution to avert the United States from defaulting on their loans will be almost impossible, with the stakes even higher, and the fallout greater. Even as the government shutdown hits the week mark, both President Obama and Speaker Boehner are turning their attention towards finding a way to raise the debt ceiling, which will reach its limit on Oct. 17, 2013, without passing a bill to raise it the U.S. will default on its loans.
The government has been partially shutdown since the new fiscal year began on Oct. 1. There has been little progress to end the first government shutdown in 17 years with both the Democrats and Republicans spending most their time blaming each other.
Speaker Boehner turned the tables on President Obama's campaign to blame the Republicans for the entire crisis. Boehner told ABC News that in his opinion the President and Democrats are to blame for both of the economic crises. Boehner emphasized; "The American people expect in Washington when we have a crisis like this that the leaders will sit down and have a conversation. And I told my members the other day that there may be a back room somewhere, but there's nobody in it."
The Speaker expressed his willingness to negotiate and speak with the President to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling limit, saying; "We're interested in having a conversation about how we open the government and how we begin to pay our bills. But it begins with a simple conversation."
According to Boehner he does not believe he has enough votes to pass either a clean spending bill or to raise debt limit, stating; "There are not the votes in the house to pass a clean CR." Continuing, he spoke more extensively about the debt crisis and way to resolve it; "The nation's credit is at risk because of the administration's refusal to sit down and have a conversation. The votes are not in the House to pass a clean debt limit. And the president is risking default by not having a conversation with us…. We're not going down that path. It is time to deal with America's problems. How can you raise the debt limit and do nothing about the underlying problem?"
Concluding the Speaker gave the President an open invitation to contact him for negotiations, saying; "That's the path we're on. Listen, the president canceled his trip to Asia. I assumed, well, maybe he wants to have a conversation. I decided to stay here in Washington this weekend. He knows what my phone number is. All he has to do is call." The speaker was reading that the President cancelling his Asia trip might signify that he wants to negotiate, however, it is probably more a PR move to please the American public more than an overture for negotiations.
Treasury Secretary Lew speaking also on Sunday, Oct. 6 on CNN's "State of the Union," said the government uses "$60 billion a day" and on the Oct. 17, the government balance will be only $30 billion in available funds. Lew declared; "I'm telling you that on the 17th, we run out of our ability to borrow, and Congress is playing with fire… If they don't extend the debt limit, we have a very, very short window of time before those scenarios start to be played out."
The President sat down for his own interview on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013 and released on Sunday Oct. 6 with the Associated Press' Julie Pace. The President seems confident that that the House will raise the debt ceiling limit in time, saying; "There were at least some quotes yesterday that (House of Representatives) Speaker (John) Boehner is willing to make sure that we don't default…. And I'm pretty willing to bet that there are enough votes in the House of Representatives right now to make sure that the United States doesn't end up being a deadbeat."
On Thursday, Oct. 3 the media reported that Boehner has had a number of meetings with House Republicans, reassuring them he will not pass the clean spending bill Democrats have been pressuring them for. He has also told them that he will not allow the government to default; Boehner apparently is thinking of "violating the Hastert rule", and resorting to obtaining Democratic votes to raise the debt ceiling without a majority of Republican support.
The Speaker's spokesman Michael Steel's public comment said very little about Boehner's plan, only explaining; "Speaker Boehner has always said that the United States will not default on its debt, but if we're going to raise the debt limit, we need to deal with the drivers of our debt and deficits. That's why we need a bill with cuts and reforms to get our economy moving again."
However, Rep. Michael G. Fitzpatrick, R-PA stated; "Hurricane Sandy, the fiscal cliff - all of the big votes require reasonable Republicans and Democrats to come together in order to pass it and get it to the president's desk. This will be no different."
The same day, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney at the Daily Press Briefing mostly ruled out the prospect of President Obama invoking the 14th amendment to "unilaterally" raise the debt ceiling limit. Carney explained; "We do not believe that the 14th amendment provides that authority to the president… our view is, the Constitution gives Congress, not the president, the authority to borrow money, and only Congress can increase the debt ceiling. Which is why it's time that they do their job and raise the debt ceiling - you know, authorize the Treasury to pay the bills that Congress racked up."
Also Thursday, Oct. 3 Obama spoke at the M. Luis Construction Company in Rockville, Maryland, where he placed the blame for entire for the shutdown on the Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH, and discussed the crisis over raising the debt ceiling limit.
The President reiterated his promise not to negotiate on either the spending bill to end the shutdown or raising the debt ceiling limit, He also gave a clear picture that the ramifications of the government defaulting on its loans is far greater than the current government shutdown, stating; "As reckless as a government shutdown is, as many people as are being hurt by a government shutdown, an economic shutdown that results from default would be dramatically worse…. In an economic shutdown, they don't. In a government shutdown, millions of Americans -- not just federal workers -- everybody faces real economic hardship."
The blame game between the President Obama, the Democrats and the Republicans can be never ending unless either side compromises. The fact is both sides share some of the blame for the current crises, but Republicans are right about the power of negotiations, that is the way these same problems were averted in April 2011 over a spending bill, and August 2011 over the debt limit. However, President Obama was only in his first term, the Republicans had just gained controlled of the House in the 2010 midterm elections, a blow to a president desperate to go down in history as a two term president.
Now Obama has nothing to lose and all to gain if Americans entirely blame the Republicans, both the President and Democrats want to regain control of the House in the 2014 elections, which will buy the President more time from the labeled lame duck status, and allow him again free reign to pass his remaining agenda without Republican interference, and secure the legacy he wants for his presidency in history.
- Text of President Barack Obama's Exclusive Interview With the AP, Oct. 6, 2013
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & Israeli politics.