The Democrats have refused to Raise the Debt Ceiling for Republican Presidents

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 8th, 2013

History 101

The Democrats opposed Raising the Debt Ceiling for Republican President Dwight Eisenhower

President Obama and the House Republicans are at a standoff.  At the center of the debate is Obamacare.  The House Republicans want to defund Obamacare.  They didn’t like it when it cost $1 trillion over ten years.  And they like it even less now that the CBO has revised its cost to $3 trillion.  It has frozen hiring.  And pushed people from full-time to part-time.  President Obama has also revised the law.  Taking on legislative powers that the Constitution gives only to Congress.  With the one year delay for the business mandate being especially galling to Republicans.  As well as the 75% subsidy members of Congress and their staff get.

The House Republicans have reduced their demands to basically giving the president a continuing resolution to fund all of government if he would only give the American people what he gave to his friends in Big Business.  A one year waiver of the individual mandate.  Infuriating the president.  Saying he will not negotiate with terrorists taking the American people hostage.  However, he said he will negotiate with the Republicans.  After they give him everything he wants.  Including raising the debt limit.  For shutting down the government is one thing.  But messing with the full faith and credit of the United States is another.  With the Republicans having the gall to demand spending cuts before raising the debt ceiling.  This was just unprecedented.  Never before did anyone use the debt ceiling to bully a president before.  In the past Congresses always raised the debt ceiling whenever a president requested.  Whistling a happy tune in the process.  Except, of course, in 1953 (see Can Debt Ceiling Debates Be Useful? History Says Maybe. by Joseph J. Thorndike posted 8/28/2013 on the Huffington Post).

The idea of using the debt ceiling for leverage is not new. Indeed, the nation’s first debt limit crisis hinged on it. In the summer of 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower asked Congress for a modest boost in the debt ceiling. When austerity-minded lawmakers refused, it prompted a crisis that brought the nation to the brink of default – or to its fiscal senses, depending on your point of view…

Eisenhower didn’t believe that spending cuts would be sufficient to keep federal debt under the cap. “Despite our joint vigorous efforts to reduce expenditures,” he told Congress, “it is inevitable that the public debt will undergo some further increase.” On July 30, Eisenhower asked Congress for an increase in the debt ceiling from $275 billion to $290 billion…

Sen. Harry F. Byrd, D-Va., took the lead in fighting the increase. Raising the limit would be “an invitation to extravagance,” he declared. Keeping the present cap, moreover, would encourage much-needed economy. “It may be that the administration would be forced to operate on a very prudent and conservative budget in order to avoid an increase in the debt limit,” he predicted.

A host of senators joined Byrd’s campaign to reject the increase. The New York Times reported that Democratic opposition was “almost solid,” and many Republicans were also prepared to break with the president…

As a leverage goes, it was pretty effective. Almost immediately, Eisenhower told his department heads to cut their spending. “It is absolutely essential that you begin immediately to take every possible step progressively to reduce the expenditures of your department during the fiscal year 1954,” he told them.

So it started early.  And it started with the Democrats.  Holding the debt limit hostage to get what they want.  And in 1953, the Democrats got what they wanted.  They forced President Eisenhower to make spending cuts.  Just like the Republicans asked for in 2011.  And will ask again now.  But President Obama was not as reasonable in 2011 as President Eisenhower was.  And he is saying he will be even less reasonably now.

The Democrats opposed Raising the Debt Ceiling for Republican President Ronald Reagan

So was 1953 an isolated incident?  Were the Democrats more accommodating at other times when a president asked them to raise the debt ceiling?  As President Obama would have us believe?  Well, they weren’t very accommodating in 1984.  When President Ronald Reagan asked Congress to raise the debt ceiling (see In 1984, debt debate looked different to Biden, GOP by Stephen Dinan posted 7/19/2011 on The Washington Times).

With time running out on a looming debt crisis, the president and his allies in the Senate are fighting to win a raise in the government’s borrowing limit, only to be stymied by a minority insisting that a spending freeze be part of the deal.

Sounds like present day, but it was October 1984 — when the partisan roles were reversed. Republicans controlled the White House and the Senate, while Democrats controlled the House. Democrats also could sustain filibusters in the Senate and were balking at raising the debt ceiling unless it was attached to big spending cuts…

One of the leaders of that 1984 Democratic revolt — a man who tried to impose a spending freeze and fought for a smaller debt increase than President Reagan wanted — was none other than current Vice President Joseph R. Biden, then a senator from Delaware and now President Obama’s right-hand man in negotiations with Congress.

“I must express my protest against continually increasing the debt without taking positive steps to slow its growth. Therefore, I am voting against any further increase in the national debt,” Mr. Biden said in a floor speech just before helping fellow Democrats defeat an increase of $251 billion on a 46-14 vote.

Once again the Democrat-controlled House refused to raise the debt ceiling.  So 1953 was not an isolated incident.  But the beginning of a pattern of Democrat willingness to risk the full faith and credit of the United States for political reasons.  To get their way despite losing the election to President Reagan.  Apparently back then elections didn’t have consequences.

How embarrassing it must be for the vice president.  Being part of an administration trying to do what the Reagan administration did when he stood in opposition.  Imagine trying to argue for something you argued against previously?  Thankfully, it was only the vice president that had such a hypocritical past.  Imagine how embarrassing it would be if the president had such hypocrisy in his past.

The Democrats opposed Raising the Debt Ceiling for Republican President George W. Bush

Well, as it turns out, another young Democrat senator went toe-to-toe with another Republican president over the debt ceiling.  And he just didn’t vote against it.  He made a speech.  On the record.  For posterity.  To prove he was no spendthrift.  At least, not when a Republican was in the White House.  That president was George W. Bush.  And that senator was, of course, Barack Obama (see Obama Really Wishes He Never Gave This Speech About The Debt Ceiling by Walter Hickey posted 1/14/2013 on the Business Insider).

In 2006, then-Sen. Barack Obama gave a floor speech defending his decision to vote against an increase in the debt ceiling under President George W. Bush…

Here are some of the key parts of Obama’s speech:

Mr. President, I rise today to talk about America’s debt problem. 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. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.

In the midst of the first debt-ceiling standoff in 2011, Obama was asked about his flip by ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. He chalked it up as a “political vote” and said his mindset changed as President.

Hypocrisy, thy name is Barack Obama.

Interesting.  It was okay for him to do what the House Republicans are doing now when he was in Congress.  When there was less debt.  And less of a debt crisis.  But it’s not okay for the House Republicans to do so now.  When there is more debt.  And a greater debt crisis.

So what is the right thing to do?  Well, if you’re President Obama the right thing to do is what he wants to do.  Not what is best for the country.  For if you argue both sides of the same issue at different times it means you’re more interested in what’s best for yourself.  Not the country.  Unless he evolved on this issue, too.  If so, perhaps we should ask for President Obama’s resignation.  For if he keeps evolving on issues he must be too ill-informed or naïve to be president.

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