(CNSNews.com) – Explaining why he has no choice but to demand an increase in the legal limit on the national debt, President Barack Obama said at a Monday press conference that Congress orders him to spend money.
“This is a matter of Congress authorizes spending,” Obama said.
“They order me to spend," he said. "They tell me: ‘You need to fund our Defense Department at such-and-such a level. You need to send Social Security checks. You need to make sure that you are paying to care for our veterans.’ They lay all this out for me, and--because they have the spending power--and so I am required by law to go ahead and pay these bills.”
The current debt ceiling is $16.394 trillion, a number that President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner agreed to in August 2011, when they increased the previous limit by $2.4 trillion. The Constitution gives Congress the power to borrow money. So, the president cannot increase the debt of the United States unless Congress enacts legislation authorizing him to do so.
“Separately, they also have to authorize a raising of the debt ceiling in order to make sure that those bills are paid,” said Obama. “And so what Congress can’t do is tell me to spend X and then say, but we’re not going to give you the authority to go ahead and pay the bills.”
During Monday’s press conference, Obama talked about why he refused to cut federal spending in exchange for Republicans in Congress once again increasing the legal limit on how much the federal government can borrow.
“The issue here is whether or not America pays its bills,” Obama said. “We are not a deadbeat nation and so there’s a very simple solution to this. Congress authorizes us to pay our bills. Now if the House and the Senate want to give me the authority so that they don’t have to take these tough votes, if they want to put the responsibility on me to raise the debt ceiling, I’m happy to take it.”
Obama referenced a proposal by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) during the 2011 battle over raising the debt ceiling that would have given the president authority to raise the debt ceiling without prior congressional authorization.
Obama said he did not want to raise the debt ceiling himself unless Congress authorized it. But he called on them to expedite it.
“If they want to keep this responsibility, then they need to go ahead and get it done and you know, there are no magic tricks here,” Obama said. “There are no loopholes. There are no, you know, easy outs. This is a matter of Congress authorizes spending.”
While the GOP-dominant House of Representatives has passed budgets for the last two years, the Democrat-led Senate hasn’t passed a budget since April 2009. Also, the House passed several annual appropriations bills but they too were not taken up by the Senate, headed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Instead, over the last few years, Congress and the White House have ended up passing Continuing Resolutions to keep the federal government operating. In September 2012, the GOP-led House passed a $1.047 trillion funding bill, a Continuing Resolution, which will fund the government through March 27, 2013. To become law that CR also needed to pass the Senate and be signed by Obama.
Once the current CR expires in March, the executive branch will only be able to spend the money that Congress authorizes it to spend after that date.