Democrats Change Tune On Debt Ceiling
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer has joined President Obama in conceding that he blundered by voting against an increase to the government’s debt ceiling.
“I have voted against the debt limit in the past. That was a mistake,” Hoyer (Md.), the second-ranking House Democrat, said in an unprompted admission to reporters on Tuesday.
His comment came two days after White House adviser David Plouffe said Obama made a mistake by voting against raising the debt ceiling when he was a senator.
Democrats are urging Republicans not to jeopardize the economy and the full faith and credit of the nation with talk of voting against raising the $14 trillion debt ceiling before the borrowing limit is reached in July. But the Democrats’ own votes against raising that ceiling during George W. Bush’s presidency are coming back to haunt them.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee attacked Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who voted against raising the ceiling in 2007, for “flip-flopping” on the issue when she called Republicans “profoundly irresponsible” for threatening to do the same thing.
In the Senate, a spokesman for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Reid has previously stated that he “believes he should have voted differently.”
Other Democratic senators stopped short of declaring their previous votes a mistake. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) voted against the debt-limit increase in 2006 “to demand a course correction from the Bush fiscal policies that had turned record budget surpluses into record deficits with no end in sight,” Kerry spokeswoman Whitney Smith said. “He’ll cast this upcoming vote after considering the best way to influence our economic direction and after seeing what’s attached to the bill.”
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) also defended his earlier vote.
Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (S.C.) said through a spokeswoman: “My vote was in protest of Bush’s unwise and obscene tax cuts. The circumstances today are entirely different.”
Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling as an Illinois senator in 2006.
Democrats and Republicans are girding for a pitched battle over the debt ceiling, which the Treasury Department says must be lifted by July to avoid a first-ever default by the federal government. A default, administration officials say, would be “catastrophic” for the U.S. economy.
Republicans have said any bill to raise the debt limit must be paired with significant spending cuts or structural fiscal reform — a warning that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) repeated on Tuesday.
“Let me give notice to the White House that blindly raising the debt limit without implementing real reforms is irresponsible and will simply burden our children with more debt. We Republicans are not going to go along with it,” he told reporters at his weekly press briefing.