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Back on April 14, I wrote that I was reserving judgment on the Republican/Obama budget deal until I saw if the Republicans would use the leverage they had just provided themselves. In a post entitled, "Did the Republicans Just Outsmart the Smartest President We've Ever Had?" I argued:
Barack Obama would have let the government shutdown by rolling the dice on the hope that Americans would blame Republicans for it like they did in 1995. But Barack Obama will not let the country default on his watch because he knows that he will be held accountable and his presidency will be over. This is a whole different animal, and Republicans have all the leverage.
I argued that by making the deal to avoid the shutdown, Republicans now gave themselves the opportunity to hold the president over a barrel on spending cuts. They could make essentially any demand for as big of cuts as they can think of, and the President is going to be in a difficult spot: either agree to the cuts, or take the blame for a catastrophic government default.
It seems as though Republicans are signaling they recognize their leverage and may be actually ready to use it:
Speaking at the New York Economic Club moments ago, House Speaker John Boehner established House Republicans' battle lines for the incipient debt limit debate. Here is the salient passage:
As you know, the president has asked Congress to increase the debt limit, and to do so without preconditions.
There are those who insist we shouldn't "play games" with it.
Others have gone further. One prominent figure even went so far as to say "the people who are threatening not to pass the debt ceiling are our version of Al-Qaeda terrorists."
With all due respect, this is the arrogance of power ? and the American people won't stand for it.
This is the time to end the spending binge and prioritize and modernize what we spend.
There's a reason the debt limit can't be increased without a vote of Congress. The debt limit is set in statute specifically so that the executive and legislative branches of our government have to deal with the difficult fiscal choices we face.
I know there are many in this room who are uneasy with this debate. I understand your concerns.
It's true that allowing America to default would be irresponsible. But it would be more irresponsible to raise the debt ceiling without simultaneously taking dramatic steps to reduce spending and reform the budget process.
To increase the debt limit without simultaneously addressing the drivers of our debt ? in defiance of the will of our people ? would be monumentally arrogant and massively irresponsible.
It would send a signal to investors and entrepreneurs everywhere that America still is not serious about dealing with our spending addiction.
It would erode confidence in our economy and reduce certainty for small businesses. And this would destroy even more American jobs.
So let me be as clear as I can be. Without significant spending cuts and reforms to reduce our debt, there will be no debt limit increase. And the cuts should be greater than the accompanying increase in debt authority the president is given.
We should be talking about cuts of trillions, not just billions.
Trillions, not just billions. Music to common sense Americans' ears. This is what I was talking about in my post in April. Before we criticize the Republicans for the budget deal, let's give them the chance to make good on the leverage they gave themselves in cutting it. Boehner's only talking right now. But if his talking turns into a serious policy demand, we're in business...and my faith in Republican leadership will greatly improve.