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What is Obama’s Role in the Debt Limit Debate?

President Obama wants to do away with Congress when it comes to raising the country’s legal debt limit. Instead of getting permission from the people’s elected representatives to borrow and spend more money, he wants to do that all by himself.

It seems typical of the President Obama we know, but just a few years ago, he spoke vehemently against putting America in debt. Here is then-Senator Barack Obama on March 16, 2006:

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.

Of course, in Washington, one’s convictions can change with the electoral winds. And so this is the same man who today, as our President, is seeking unlimited authority to raise the country’s debt limit anytime, anywhere, all by himself. No Congress needed.

This new power is part of the “deal” the President offered to House Republicans on the fiscal cliff. His “deal” is massive tax hikes, more government spending, and the ability for him to send that government spending skyrocketing through the stratosphere without any vote of Congress. One White House official describes this proposal as “resolv[ing] the debt limit without drama.”

This issue has come up before. As Heritage’s J.D. Foster wrote in 2011:

Congress could dispense with the periodic ritual of raising the debt limit. It could simply give Treasury the authority to borrow such funds as are needed to carry out the deficit consequences of current fiscal policy. This would be the easier course politically, but Congress has wisely chosen not to take it. The nation is far better served when Congress is forced to acknowledge the net effects of its policies as reflected in the necessity of raising the debt limit to maintain that course.

As unpleasant as it may be, congressional debate over increasing the debt limit is an opportunity for Congress to consider vital course corrections on federal spending, including entitlement spending, which is growing unchecked.

Just a few short years ago, Obama said, “This rising debt is a hidden domestic enemy” and that “interest payments are a significant tax on all Americans—a debt tax that Washington doesn’t want to talk about.”

>>> See the Congressional Record where Obama speaks against raising the debt limit in 2006

That’s a great point. Today, U.S. interest on debt payments is already greater than spending on many major federal agencies. In just a few years, Obama’s policies will mean the U.S. will be spending more on just the interest than on our entire national defense budget.

More recently, when he was running for President, Obama condemned George W. Bush for adding $4 trillion to the national debt over eight years, calling it “irresponsible” and “unpatriotic.” Now—in the past four years—Obama’s Administration has already added almost $6 trillion to the debt. That means he is on track to triple Bush’s debt increase over eight years. But without congressional limits, who can say?

In 2006, Obama concluded:

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.

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

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