Obama economic adviser's refrain: No debt ceiling negotiations
September 15th, 2013
08:00 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama economic adviser's refrain: No debt ceiling negotiations

Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama and his closest advisers are making it clear: They will not negotiate on the looming debt ceiling.

In an interview on Sunday with ABC, Obama said he "will not negotiate...on the debt ceiling" because making a debate over the credit of the United States the norm would alter "the constitutional structure of this government entirely."

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Gene Sperling, a senior economic adviser to Obama, echoed his boss's pledge on a Sunday call with reporters.

"All (Obama) has said is that he cannot and will not and should not negotiate on the debt limit because to do so gives credence to the idea of any side threatening the default of the United States of America over a policy dispute," said Sperling, the outgoing director of the National Economic Council. "As you heard the president say, he is not going to negotiate over the debt limit, that we should not be negotiating over whether to pay our bills."

The White House announced this week that Sperling would be leaving the administration post he has held since January 2011.

The debt ceiling is set to become a pressing issue for the White House and Congress. Most economists forecast the country could run out of money as early as late October.

If Congress fails to raise the nation's borrowing limit – which is currently set at $16.7 trillion – the government will be unable to pay the equivalent of a third of all the bills due during that period, according to analysis by the Bipartisan Policy Center.

So far, the debate over the nation's borrowing limit has been overshadowed by possible military action in Syria. That is likely to change as the limit inches closer. Many Republican lawmakers have said they won't vote to raise the limit until certain spending cuts are implemented. Democrats have pushed back against that notion.

House Speaker John Boehner, backing up what many in his Republican caucus have called for, has argued that Obama must negotiate before the debt ceiling is raised.

"For decades, the White House and Congress have used the debt limit to find bipartisan solutions on the deficit and the debt," Boehner said at a news conference this week. "These types of changes were signed into law by President Reagan, Bush, Clinton and President Obama himself two years ago. So President Obama is going to have to deal with this as well."

Although Obama negotiated the debt ceiling with Boehner in 2011 – talks that eventually broke down – Obama said Sunday making debt ceiling negotiations the norm would be bad for the country.

"If we continue to set a precedent in which a president … is in a situation in which, each time the United States is called upon to pay its bills, the other party can simply sit there and say, 'Well, we're not going to … pay the bills unless you give us … what we want' – that changes the constitutional structure of this government entirely," Obama said.

Sperling emphasized that the president's pledge to not negotiate on the debt ceiling did not extend to other areas of budgetary politics.

If the government defaults on its debt in October, all payments issued by the Treasury Department could be in jeopardy, forcing the department to make difficult - and legally questionable - decisions about who should get paid and who should be stiffed.

– CNN Money's Jeanne Sahadi and Chris Isidore contributed to this report.


Filed under: Economy • Gene Sperling • President Obama
soundoff (26 Responses)
  1. Evergreen

    The House should worked to put more Americans back to work by passing a jobs bill. A jobs bill would have created more tax payers and less people needing assistance and sped up the recovery.

    September 15, 2013 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  2. king

    aahhh i guest the repubs wasn't planning on hearing that the president wont compromise. they've played the same cards a little bit too much, now the president know what theyre holding. hey repubs the president dont have to seek reelection again. i wonder what your big money friends on wall street will think of you when you shut the government down, and send stocks spiralling out of control when millions of people will lose money on their 401k, just because you want to defund a law that have been passed by the congress and ratified by the supreme court which will help 30 million americans. isnt that a constitutional law. i thought you guys were running around shouting that the president is trampling on the constitution. i didn't realize that constitutional laws only means something to you when its serves your purpose, in short repubs suck it up and drive on.

    September 15, 2013 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  3. orrball

    What a joke not talking about paying your bills is even dumber. I have to come up with a good reason to the credit card company when I want my limit raised . How dumb does this Pres. think we are ?

    September 15, 2013 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  4. Gunderson

    So what Rome burn to ground. Tune up Fiddle! Who care about Fiscal Responsabilty !!!

    September 15, 2013 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  5. Chris

    Let's start by 'trimming' that $524 BILLION DOLLAR ANNUAL WELFARE/SOCIAL PROGRAMS Budget.

    September 15, 2013 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  6. don in albuquerque

    Good time to stand up too them. Let the GOTP shut down the government and see what happens next. They make it more apparent every day that most of them should not be in office to begin with.

    September 15, 2013 08:58 pm at 8:58 pm |
  7. Debbie in Arizona

    Stand firm President Obama.

    September 15, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  8. Tony in Maine

    They really need to stop calling it a debt ceiling.

    Those only marginally interested in politics assume that it's like asking your Visa card issuer to raise your limit. It's not that at all, it's simply agreeing to pay for the bills already authorized by Congress. That is why, if the debt ceiling isn't raised, the credit rating of the US goes down – just like yours would if you decided not to pay your Visa bill.

    But some halfwit decided to call it a debt ceiling and a bunch of halfwits at a cable news channel that shall remain unnamed are trying to make life impossible for President Obama, so we have to repeat this explanation every year or two.

    Call it "Paying the bills we already ran up" instead of a debt ceiling. It may annoy O'Reilly, Limbaugh or Priebus, but that's tough. Time they spoke the truth once in a while.

    September 15, 2013 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  9. Richard Long

    "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government can not pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. 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." – Barack Hussein Obama

    Obama = Legendary FAIL

    September 15, 2013 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  10. HenryMiller

    The first position of any negotiation is a claim that nothing is negotiable.

    September 15, 2013 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  11. Michael Benjamin

    We have seen this movie before and the results were not pretty. The Republicans caused billions of dollars in losses with their obdurate stance on the debt ceiling. It was after all Congress that passed the laws which authorized the spending. They fail to collect enough taxes to pay for the programs they pass.

    September 15, 2013 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  12. boungiorno

    hmmmmm knock on wood be careful what you wish for i hear you get back 10 fold GOD BLESS

    September 15, 2013 11:05 pm at 11:05 pm |
  13. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    Washington (CNN) – President Barack Obama and his closest advisers are making it clear: They will not negotiate on the looming debt ceiling.
    What? Right. Why negotiate a deeper hole when you can simply create an executive order for one.

    September 15, 2013 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Well, the dufus should have thought about that PRIOR to instituting this fiasco called ObamaCare!

    September 16, 2013 12:01 am at 12:01 am |
  15. zenreaper

    Yeah, if Obama wants to think if the debt ceiling like a house, lets do that. Dad wants stuff, Mom wants stuff, the KIDS want stuff and the bills have to get paid. So pay the basic bills, and NEGOTIATE. Nope, Obama thinks he is DAD, and DAD thinks he will get what he wants, without having to give Mom or the kids ANYTHING. Maybe he can call Putin to solve THIS problem as well.

    September 16, 2013 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  16. Sparty

    GOP Tea Drinkers are trying to hold America hostage again. Hold firm Mr President and don't negotiate with economic terrorists!

    September 16, 2013 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  17. Donna

    If Obama wants to dictate terms, then the House should not approve a debt ceiling increase. Let Obama either cut or tax his way to a balanced budget, which he claimed he would have after four years. Another broken promise or just another one of his lies. We cannot and should not continue to pile this debt on future generations.

    Obama's own words:

    The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … 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.

    By his own words and standards he is a failed leader.

    September 16, 2013 01:38 am at 1:38 am |
  18. Dan5404

    Negotiating over whether to pay your bills is stupid. Instead, we should negotiate on a new tax code,ways to implement healthcare savings through making Obamacare work the way it ios designd to work, and approving spending on infrastructure projects to help the economy and the job situation. Austerity does not work. We have ample proof in many countries.

    September 16, 2013 02:06 am at 2:06 am |
  19. J.V.Hodgson

    How many times have anyone of us bloggers seen this pathetic nonsense debate.
    Actually to call it a DEBATE elevates it to simple unavoidable ideological nonsense.
    The debt level is function of the budget. The senate has passed a budget and the house and Senate refuse especially Republicans refuse to put the conflicting bills to reconciliation, i.e Senate republicans filibuster reconciliation and refuse to discuss appropriations. Why because every which way they can they want to reject PPACA as a law.
    Me they want to repeal PPACA. Ok its virtually a one line bill repeal all and the whole of PPACA . Vote that in the House, and pass that to the Senate for Reid to put it up to a vote if it passed in the House. The problem is as I understand our constitution a law cannot be repealed and avoid a presidential veto without a 2/3rds majority.
    QED fight the 2014/2016 Election with repeal as a key plank of policy for Republicans. Real votes will tell not ideology.
    The real problem or issue is health care is not the driver of who wins in 2014 or 2016, but the economy and jobs. Then next might come budget deficits ( currently reducing) followed by debt.
    Foreign policy screw ups or not with Americas current swing towards isolationism or anti war policies and preemptive strikes are not election winners for either side!!
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    September 16, 2013 05:25 am at 5:25 am |
  20. Alan S.

    Extremism in the Republican Party, a general public whose main concern is "Honey Boo Boo or Breaking Bad" (hundreds of calls to 911 when cable went out disrupting a showing of Breaking Bad) that have just one mind set; less taxes, less government. These same individuals including Tea Party Congressmen still expect to recieve services provided by the goverment. Everyone wants but nobody wants to have to pay. (they want their program funded at the expense of others). It doesn't work that way. The very people yelling Cuts will be the first people screaming when the Government Services, Parks, Law Enforcement, slow or shut down.

    September 16, 2013 05:50 am at 5:50 am |
  21. Tea Party Thomas

    We can't afford our march to SOCIALISM. Time for the leaches to go get jobs. Stop the spending us into bankruptcy.

    RAND PAUL 2016

    September 16, 2013 05:55 am at 5:55 am |
  22. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Good. Don't listen to Guns Over People tea potty terrorists. Give them just enough rope .

    September 16, 2013 06:22 am at 6:22 am |
  23. kirk

    I'll take a wild guess and say military contractors will still get paid for things they haven't made yet while grandma's ss check doesn't show up.this is your gop, they want to destroy the poor, and working class, they tell you they must cut your funding, but somehow the rich will get richer again. How long before you face the fact the gop wants you to work for peanuts, and take away all your rights as s worker, the ones our grandparents fought for. Many in here bash the unions, but enjoy the benefits of their hard fights to get them.just look around, big business are taking more power from its employees, would never happen in a union shop.

    September 16, 2013 06:39 am at 6:39 am |
  24. 1108

    The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … 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.
    Sen. Obama’s Floor Speech, March 20, 2006

    September 16, 2013 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  25. 82ndABNVET

    At some point you have to make a stand to get our debt under control. You cannot just spend, spend, and spend. You have to cut. Maybe its defense. Maybe its welfare. Maybe its both.

    You CANNOT keep SPENDING Mr President. We have to have some mechanism to control th wallet. The Dems in the Senate failed to produce a budget for like 4 years. All they want to do is keep funding at the level it is now and then add 1-5% for everything each year. Which obviously increased expendiatures without addressing declining levels of taxes being paid as more and more people are laid off or cannot find a job.

    September 16, 2013 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
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