July 6th, 2011
05:30 PM ET

Obama downplays possible constitutional move on debt ceiling

Washington (CNN) - President Barack Obama said Wednesday he wants a deal with Congress in the next two weeks to tackle mounting deficits and allow an increase in the federal debt ceiling, but he didn't rule out using a constitutional argument to increase how much money the government can borrow.

"I don't think we should even get to the constitutional issue," Obama said during a Twitter town hall at the White House in response to a tweeted question on whether he would rely on a clause in the Fourteenth Amendment to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling.

The debt ceiling should not be "used as a gun against the heads of the American people to extract tax breaks for corporate jet owners," Obama said, calling for "a balanced approach where everything's on the table."

With congressional leaders heading to the White House on Thursday to continue negotiations, Obama said that people need to "put their dogmas aside" and "their sacred cows aside."

However, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who will take part in Thursday's talks, objected to the president's characterization of his side's positions as absolutist or maximalist.

"We have a better term for it - common sense," McConnell, R-Kentucky, said of GOP oppositon to tax increases and more government spending in some areas.

The House returned to work Wednesday from its Fourth of July break, a day after the Senate cut short its recess come back to Washington, with the two parties at sharp odds over what sort of conditions should be attached to a hike in the current $14.3 trillion debt ceiling.

Republicans are refusing to go along with any debt ceiling increase unless it includes deep spending cuts and avoids any tax increases. Democrats are trying to minimize the impact of cuts to social services and are calling for the elimination to certain tax breaks and loopholes benefiting wealthier Americans.

Treasury Department officials and leading economists have warned of potentially catastrophic consequences if the ceiling is not raised by August 2, at which point the country could default on its debt obligations. Among other things, the country could face skyrocketing interest rates and a plummeting dollar.

Increasing the debt ceiling will allow the government to borrow more money in order to pay for spending already accrued.

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soundoff (One Response)
  1. johnny

    i have been keeping up to date on how to deal with the deficit and have sat back truly believing that are elected officials whom we put our trust in, to be able to compromise with one another and solve Americas problems. what a dissappointment to see and hear what sacrifces the American public can do to solve our deficit. not once have i heard what we as politicians are willing to sacrifice! maybe we should start eliminating the deficit with cleaning up the white house, before taking any more from america's public house! and while were at it lets clean up wall street before squeezing any more from main street.

    July 6, 2011 at 11:54 pm |