In a surprise and even stunning move, President Obama vetoed legislation that reached his desk today that would raise the debt ceiling in exchange for $2.4 trillion in spending cuts and the formation of a new commission to identify $1.6 trillion in additional cuts over the next 10 years.
House Speaker John Boehner earned the support of Tea Party members of his caucus and House passage of the legislation because it met their demands for $4 trillion in cuts without new revenue. The Democrats had originally hoped to close some corporate tax loopholes and end Bush-era income tax cuts on the wealthiest 2% of Americans. The compromise legislation was worked out between Boehner, Senate majority leader Harry Reid, and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell.
The bill reaching the president’s desk was seen as the last possible compromise needed to prevent American default on its loans. But was it? Apparently heeding the advice of former President Bill Clinton, Obama invoked the 14th Amendment of the constitution in insisting the country would continue to pay its bills, and practically dared the GOP to challenge his authority to do so in federal courts. “If the Republicans want to sue me into forcing America to default on its loans, that is their prerogative. But I intend to carry out my constitutional authority to authorize the Treasury to pay our bills on time. What I won’t do is be cornered into supporting legislation that devastates America’s seniors and middle-class.” One House insider who was part of negotiations commented that by challenging the constitutionality of the debt ceiling deadline by ignoring it, “the President basically took away any and all GOP leverage.”
President Obama, with one stroke of his veto pen, declared that “I will not allow fringe elements of Congress to continue to subsidize corporate loopholes on the backs of our middle class and senior citizens. I will not see Medicare and Social Security and middle class tax breaks compromised so that a billionaire CEO can pay less in taxes than his secretary, or a profitable big corporation can pay less in taxes than a small business. This legislation revealed Republican true colors, and I had to kill it. We need to tip the scales back towards a government that serves everyday people.”
In a hastily assembled press conference, an obviously stunned House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) declared “President Obama is willing to send America into default and possibly a constitutional crisis in the name of raising taxes on job creators.” The political airwaves are abuzz in debate over whether the President’s move was bold or careless. Emboldened Democratic congressional leadership has indicated they will stand behind the President.
In the coming week, Obama plans to take his case to the American people for a balanced approach to deficit reduction. According to USA Tomorrow’s latest polls, 56% of Americans support a balanced approach that uses cuts and new revenue to address the deficit; 64% oppose cuts in Medicare and Social Security; 78% oppose ending the home mortgage loan deduction.”