The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

September 28, 2013

No-negotiation stance setting a new tone


The Clinton Herald

---- — WASHINGTON (AP) — This time, President Barack Obama says, he’s not budging. This is the confrontational Obama, the “Make my day” president, betting Republicans blink to avoid a government shutdown or a first-ever default of the nation’s debts.

It’s a proposition not without risk and one with a history of last-minute accommodations on both sides. Brinkmanship between Obama and congressional Republicans has often stopped at the precipice’s edge.

In this round, however, the president and his aides maintain that when it comes to raising the government’s borrowing authority and meeting its debt obligations, there’s no bargaining. To conservatives wishing to undo the 3-year-old health care law in exchange for an increase in the nation’s credit, Obama on Friday said bluntly: “That’s not going to happen.”

“I don’t know how I can be more clear about this: Nobody gets to threaten the full faith and credit of the United States just to extract political concessions,” Obama said in a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room.

Still, House Speaker John Boehner says a debt hike must be linked to budget cuts and other programmatic changes.

“The president says, ‘I’m not going to negotiate,’” Boehner said. “Well, I’m sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way.”

Obama’s stance is rooted in experience, politics and a desire to protect himself from similar demands in the remaining three years of his presidency.

Obama advisers note that past negotiations have not yielded grand bargains and that the mere threat of default in 2011 rattled the economy, causing a downgrade in U.S. credit. Talks earlier this year to avoid automatic spending cuts known as sequestration also failed.

Obama aides also note that Boehner himself eight months ago declared an end to negotiations with Obama, favoring the regular legislative process instead.

That process has proved messy for the GOP, and senior White House aides insist that in a standoff, Republicans will be perceived as the unreasonable party. And the White House is convinced any concession would place the president in the position of having to bargain again and again when the next debt ceiling looms.

“I’m not going to start setting a precedent, not just for me, but for future presidents, where one chamber in Congress can basically say each time there needs to be a vote to make sure Treasury pays its bills, we’re not going to sign it unless our particular hobby horse gets advanced,” Obama said Friday.

His advisers only see a downside if Obama doesn’t stand his ground.

“Every poll I’ve seen suggests that while no one escapes cleanly from a shutdown, the GOP would bear the brunt,” former senior White House counselor and Obama adviser David Axelrod said. “The bigger danger for the president is to put himself in a position to be constantly held hostage. First they want an arm. Then they want a leg. It’s unsustainable.”

House Republican leaders, meanwhile, want to attach other provisions to the debt ceiling, including approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and provisions blocking pollution regulations.