President Barack Obama at his news conference Monday on the debt ceiling sidestepped a reporter’s question on why he voted against raising the nation’s borrowing limit when he was an Illinois senator but now expected Congress to do so.
CBS News White House correspondent Major Garrett asked Obama about a “new adamant desire on your part not to negotiate when that seems to conflict with the entire history in the modern era of American presidents in the debt ceiling and your own history on the debt ceiling.”
In his 339-word response, according to a transcript from the Washington Post, Obama never addressed his voting history on the issue — beginning, instead, with “getting votes for the debt ceiling is always difficult — and budgets in this town are always difficult.”
He then mentioned how, last year, “certain groups in Congress took such an absolutist position that we came within a few days of defaulting.”
Obama added: “We have never seen the debt ceiling used in this fashion, where the notion was, you know what, we might default unless we get 100 percent of what we want. That hasn’t happened.”
And he underscored how the GOP was doing the same thing again with the impending talks. “But what you’ve never seen is the notion that has been presented so far at least by the Republicans that deficit reduction will only count spending cuts, that we will raise the deficit — or the debt ceiling dollar for dollar on spending cuts.”
The president then reiterated his pledge that the nation’s credit rating would not be held hostage to such demands.
“What we’re not going to do is put ourselves in a position where in order to pay for spending that we’ve already incurred, that our two options are, we’re either going to profoundly hurt the economy, and hurt middle- class families, and hurt seniors, and hurt kids who are trying to go to college, or alternatively we’re going to blow up the economy. We’re not going to do that.”
But as for Obama’s own history on voting against raising the debt ceiling, not a word.
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