During his closing argument Friday, Mitt Romney trotted out a new reason for voting President Obama out of office: Republican intransigence on the debt ceiling. Romney invoked the debt ceiling fight in 2011, when House Republicans brought the US to the brink of default due to their opposition to raising any new revenue.
The nation’s credit rating was downgraded immediately after the debacle. This showdown is likely to happen again, as the debt limit will be hit in early 2013, if not sooner. Romney argues that, unlike Obama, he is perfectly willing to give in to his party’s extreme Tea Party contingent this time around, thereby avoiding another manufactured crisis, as he said during an appearance on Friday:
You know that if the President is re-elected, he will still be unable to work with the people in Congress. He has ignored them, attacked them, blamed them. The debt ceiling will come up again, and shutdown and default will be threatened, chilling the economy. The President was right when he said he can’t change Washington from the inside. In this case, you can take him at his word. When I am elected, I will work with Republicans and Democrats in Congress. I will meet regularly with their leaders.
Romney is hardly the first Republican to blame Obama for the debt ceiling mess. In fact, many of Romney’s endorsers express disappointment in Obama’s supposed failure to compromise, despite the fact that Obama was willing to sign a deeply skewed deal of $3 in spending cuts for every $1 tax increase that was rejected by Republicans. Standard & Poor’s justification for downgrading US credit specifically called out Republican unwillingness to raise taxes under any circumstances. Romney has avoided mentioning the debt ceiling fight in the general campaign, possibly because a majority of Americans blamed House Republicans for the crisis.
If elected, Romney will have a hard time averting another stand-off. House Republicans’ unchanged opposition to any increase in the debt limit ensures that Romney will either have to convince them to change their minds, which conservative aides have flatly said will be impossible, or implement disastrous cuts to essential programs, which Senate Democrats will not tolerate.
Romney has refused multiple requests to comment on how he will choose to tackle the impending debt limit. He did, however, sign a pledge saying the US should default on its obligations unless Congress passed a Balanced Budget Amendment, which would gut federal programs — and still would not come close to balancing the budget without increasing taxes. If such an amendment were in place during the Great Recession, it would have doubled the unemployment rate and caused the economy to shrink by a whopping 17 percent.