White House Defends Obama’s Senate Vote against Raising Debt Ceiling But Warns of Catastrophe If GOP Doesn’t Raise Debt Ceiling

January 5, 2011 - 6:52 PM

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama is saluted as he arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2011, from vacation in Hawaii. Col. Lee DePalo, commander of the 11th Wing, is at left. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Washington (CNSNews.com) – The Obama administration is warning of catastrophic consequences if Congress does not increase the debt ceiling, the legal limit on how much the federal government can borrow, but Barack Obama held a different view on the issue as a senator in 2006.

Five years ago,  then-Sen. Obama (D-Ill.) voted against raising the debt ceiling and even spoke about it on the Senate floor before the Republican-controlled Senate voted 52-48 to increase it.

“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure,” Obama said on March 16, 2006. “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.”

Fast-forward to January 2011: The White House is now stressing the need to increase the debt ceiling, currently $14.3 trillion, while Republicans in Congress believe a vote to raise the debt limit should be offset by significant debt-reduction spending cuts. The national debt stands at $13.9 trillion.

Austan Goolsbee, chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisors, said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that not raising the debt limit would mean the United States is “essentially defaulting on our obligations, which is totally unprecedented in American history. The impact on the economy would be catastrophic.”

CNSNews.com reported last month that the 111th Congress, in the last two years with Obama as president, racked up more debt – $3.22 trillion --- than the first 100 Congresses combined.

Nevertheless, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, when asked about Obama’s 2006 speech, blamed former President George W. Bush’s policies for the fiscal problems facing the country.

“Based on the outcome of that vote, the country’s full faith and credit was not in doubt,” Gibbs said on Wednesday. “The president used it to make a point about needing to get serious about fiscal discipline.”

“We are dealing with the legacy of decisions that have been made over the past several years, not paying for a prescription drug benefit, not paying for wars, not paying for tax cuts that changed out fiscal situation much more markedly than anything ever has,” Gibbs said.

“It is important for Congress not to play politics, not to play games, to find a way to raise that debt limit, understand that we are going to have to take some serious steps to get our fiscal house in order,” he added.

New House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said there should be significant spending cuts before Congress agrees to raise the debt limit.

“I'm only interested in raising the debt ceiling if we get concessions on spending, on real controls to get our fiscal situation turned around and headed in the right direction,” Ryan told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program. “I'm not interested in raising the debt ceiling on the hope that a promise will be fulfilled at a later time.”