Washington (CNN) – There is no daylight between his vote against raising the debt ceiling as a senator in 2006 and his call for Congress to increase the limit in the next 10 days, President Barack Obama said Wednesday.
“Nothing has changed,” Obama told WFLA in an interview. “I voted against a debt ceiling increase at the time because I had some concerns about what President (George W.) Bush was doing.”
The president said he has “no problem” if members of Congress choose to vote against raising the legal borrowing limit now, but took issue with House Speaker John Boehner’s choice not to bring a clean bill to the floor.
Obama has consistently lobbied publicly for Congress to re-open the government and raise the ceiling before he will negotiate over larger debt and deficit issues facing the country. Boehner has said House Republicans will not give in to Obama’s demands, insisting mechanisms to rein in spending be included in any conversations about raising the debt ceiling.
At a press conference Tuesday, the president once again warned of the potential effects of failing to raise the debt ceiling before the October 17 deadline when the Treasury Department said the U.S. government will run out of money to pay its bills.
“We’ve been hearing from some Republicans in Congress that default would not be a big deal. So let me explain this,” Obama said. “If Congress refuses to raise what’s called the debt ceiling, America would not be able to meet all of our financial obligations for the first time in 225 years.”
But in 2006, then-freshman Sen. Obama voted against an increase in the limit over tax cuts supported by Bush and concerns over the high federal deficit.
“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure,” Obama said on the Senate floor at the time. “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. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.”
The president was asked about his 2006 vote in 2011, during the last debt ceiling debate, and said his shift showed the difference between serving in the Senate, where it’s a tough vote politically, and serving as commander in chief, when you realize the “full faith and credit of the United States” is at risk.
“That was just an example of a new senator making what is a political vote as opposed to doing what was important for the country. And I'm the first one to acknowledge it," Obama told ABC.