Maybe honest explosions are better than back-door talks and lies? Let’s pray they get it all out on the table for productive arguing, not just time-wasting childish accusations.
The relentless partisan rancor over raising the U.S. debt ceiling — essential to avoiding an American default on its skyrocketing debt — grew even nastier Thursday with angry lawmakers attacking one another and President Barack Obama. Wall Street warned of catastrophe if the United States can’t pay its bills.
The president clashed with GOP negotiators during an acrimonious two-hour White House session Wednesday — with Obama aides and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor offering competing takes on who said what.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid responded Thursday by calling Cantor “childish,” firmly declaring, “He shouldn’t even be at the table.”
Not long after that, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell stood on the floor of the upper house to serve notice that the debt problem belonged squarely in Obama’s lap.
“Republicans will not be reduced to being the tax collectors for the Obama economy,” McConnell said. “Don’t expect any more cover from Republicans on it than you got on health care. None.” No Republican voted for Obama’s health care overhaul last year.
By Cantor’s account of Wednesday’s meeting, the president said that he “had sat there long enough and no other president; Ronald Reagan wouldn’t sit here like this, and that he’s reached the point that something’s got to give.”
“And he said to me, ‘Eric, don’t call my bluff,'” Cantor said. “He said, ‘I’m going to the American people with this.'” After that, Cantor said Obama got up and declared, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Cantor’s account of tonight’s meeting is completely overblown,” one Democratic aide told NBC News. “Cantor rudely interrupted the president three times to advocate for short-term debt ceiling increases … This is just more juvenile behavior from him and (Speaker) Boehner needs to rein him in.”
None of it was a promising prelude to negotiations scheduled to resume at the White House on Thursday afternoon, less than three weeks before an Aug. 2 deadline for increasing the government’s borrowing authority. Thursday’s talks were to focus on the touchy questions of how to cut spending on Medicare and Medicaid, and raising more tax revenue.
Behind the scenes, meanwhile, legislators and White House officials continued to work on a backup plan offered by McConnell to avoid government default.
Obama is demanding that budget negotiators find common ground by week’s end, as the financial world watches with growing jitters.
“No one can tell me with certainty that a U.S. default wouldn’t cause catastrophe and wouldn’t severely damage the U.S. or global economy,” Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., told reporters Thursday. “And it would be irresponsible to take that chance.”
Already, Moody’s Investors Service is reviewing the government’s credit rating, saying there is a small but rising risk that the government will default on its debt. If Moody’s were to lower the rating, the consequences would ripple through the economy, pushing up rates for mortgages, car loans and other debts.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said the statement from Moody’s was “another clear indication of the need to act and to act soon.” She said, “The president has extended the respect and the courtesy to the bipartisan House and Senate leaders to listen to their concerns, their priorities, and their suggestions at extensive meetings over the past few weeks, and now we have a responsibility to act.”
Following the warning from Moody’s, China, the U.S.’s biggest foreign creditor with more than $1 trillion in Treasury debt as of March, called on the U.S. to adopt responsible policies to protect investor interests.