President faces big challenge raising debt ceiling


The president said the concept of the debt ceiling issue is pretty easy to understand, but when we went out to talk with Bay Area residents, that's not what we found, and the challenge facing the president is one that he began to address Monday morning.

The president told reporters raising the debt ceiling is not a question of more spending.

"It simply allows the country to pay for spending that Congress has already committed to," said Obama. Then he repeated that. "Raising the debt ceiling does not authorize us to spend more."

In the 40-minute press conference he said it a half dozen times. He said, "This is about paying your bills." And if the U.S. defaults on its debt, he said, "Social security checks and veterans benefits will be delayed. We might not be able to pay our troops or honor our contacts with small business owners."

House Republicans say it's about spending and they want corresponding spending cuts for every dollar that debt ceiling is raised.

On Monday, Speaker of the House John Boehner-R, Ohio, said: "The American people do not support raising the debt ceiling without reducing government spending at the same time."

The president said he'll negotiate spending cuts, but not with the economy hanging in the balance.

"The full faith and credit of the United States of America is not a bargaining chip," said Obama.

However, the president's challenge is a lot of people we talked to had no real grasp of what it meant to raise the debt ceiling.

We asked Stephen Shank of Point Richmond what would happen if Congress raises the debt ceiling and he replied, "It put us more in debt."

When we asked the same question to George McMeans of Point Richmond, he said, "Raising the debt ceiling it allows him to borrow more money."

About half the people we talked to had no idea what the debt ceiling was. Mary Stainbrook blamed lawmakers. She said, "I believe honestly that they make things purposely confusing so that they can do whatever they want."

If he wants to turn up the heat on House Republicans, he has got to make the issue clear and as ABC7 News political analyst Bruce Cain, Ph.D., explains Republicans must decide if they really want to stand their ground on this issue at the risk of an economic downturn.

"I think a lot of it has to do with, 'Well, yes Tea Party, you want to make your case, but is this the time to do it and is this the right way to do it?' And that I think is Boehner's responsibility to explain that to his caucus members and my understanding is that's what he's planning to do over the next couple of days," said Cain.

Monday the Tea Party Express issued a statement saying it's completely irresponsible for the president of the United States to demagogue this issue. The president is going to have a couple of big opportunities in the next couple of weeks to make his argument over the debt ceiling. He's got his inauguration speech, followed by the State of the Union.

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