President Barack Obama turned to business leaders on Wednesday ahead of brewing fiscal fights, urging them to oppose GOP efforts to link raising the debt limit to further spending cuts and entitlement reforms.
“You have never seen in the history of the United States the debt ceiling being used to extort a president or a governing party,” Obama said in a speech to the Business Roundtable.
The White House and Congress face two looming deadlines. Lawmakers must pass a spending bill to prevent a government shutdown on October 1 and two weeks later must raise the nation's borrowing limit to avoid a default.
House Republicans, though, are moving ahead with plans to defund Obamacare in their spending bill, a measure likely dead on arrival in the Senate. GOP lawmakers also want Obama to agree to more spending cuts before signing off on increasing the debt ceiling.
Obama told the nation’s top corporate executives that strategy would wreak havoc on the economy.
The president argued that Republicans are making a phony argument, and said that the debt ceiling applies to past spending not future budget decisions.
“Initially, this was an argument about how much we spend,” Obama said of his Republican rivals. “That’s no longer the argument. What we now have is an ideological fight that has been mounted in the House of Representatives.”
Speaker John Boehner’s office rejected the president’s criticism, pointing out that as a senator, Obama had opposed raising the debt ceiling in 2006.
The White House has repeatedly said that Obama now regrets that vote.
In an effort to gain leverage over Republicans, Obama has sought to focus on the impact the next round of fiscal debates have on the public.
The president has argued that while many Americans are still recovering from the recession, things would have been worse without his administration’s policies.
Obama said he understood concerns about spending and acknowledged that to the public, raising the debt limit “sounds terrible,” calling it a “talking point for politics.”
Republicans, though, made it clear they were ready to fight over the continuing resolution and debt limit on Wednesday.
“Basically, his message is this: America isn’t in a free fall, so everyone should give him a big pat on the back,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said. “In an effort to justify his own failed policies, and preserve them, the president is papering over some pretty troubling realities. “