ThinkProgress filed this report from the Netroots Nation convention in Minneapolis, MN.
The United States is less than seven weeks away from defaulting on our debt and sending the country into an economic crisis worse than the Great Recession. Brushing off the impending consequences, Republicans are continuing to hold the debt ceiling vote hostage to their various demands, including a balanced budget amendment, Social Security cuts, and a 44-percent reduction to every government program.
One of the leading voices urging Republicans not to raise the debt ceiling has been leading presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty. On multiple occasions, Pawlenty advised the GOP to stand firm and not allow a debt ceiling increase, regardless of the economic consequences, even saying at one point that failing to raise the debt ceiling would be good for the economy. “If the Congress moves in that direction at present,” said Pawlenty, “they better get something really good for it — it better be permanent, and it better be structural.”
ThinkProgress ran into Pawlenty in the Minneapolis airport today and asked whether as president he could imagine asking Congress to raise the debt ceiling. The former Minnesota governor was evasive. He reiterated his opposition to raising the current debt limit, but despite being asked three times whether he would ever request an increase as president, Pawlenty was unwilling to rule it out:
KEYES: You’ve obviously made a big deal out of telling Congress not to raise the debt ceiling, to stay firm on this. Can you envision a scenario where you’re president that you would ask Congress to raise the debt ceiling?
PAWLENTY: I don’t think they should raise the debt ceiling. And if they even consider it, they should make sure that they get real, permanent, meaningful structural reform in spending, including things like a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, or specific long-term reforms and changes in the structural spending of the federal budget. It’s out of control and it’s reckless.
KEYES: But if you were president, do you think you would ask Congress ever to be raising it?
PAWLENTY: I don’t think we should raise the debt ceiling, but if they feel that they have to because it’s mathematically impossible not to, then I think you have to make sure that you get real, permanent structural reforms. The thing I would shoot for is a constitutional amendment to balance the budget
KEYES: But not willing to write it off?
PAWLENTY: That’s good. Thanks.
The TV show The West Wing wisely characterized debt ceiling negotiations as an opportunity for the opposition party to grandstand “about how awful it is that we maxed out the national credit card.” For example, despite his current opposition to raising the debt ceiling, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) supported an increase in 2002 because, “I truly believe if you owe debts, you pay debts.”
Indeed, Pawlenty’s refusal to rule out future increases in the debt ceiling if he’s elected president demonstrates that his current opposition to raising the debt limit is likely no more than an exercise in demagoguery.