White House Says Obama ‘Regrets Vote Against Raising Debt Ceiling in 2006, Calls It ‘Mistake’

April 11, 2011 - 2:38 PM

President Barack Obama

President Obama smiles as he walks to meet students from Altona Middle School in Longmont, Colo., Monday, April 11, 2011, on the South Portico of the White House in Washington. Obama received a letter from a mother at the school worried that her son's trip would be canceled if there were to be a government shutdown. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Washington (CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama made a mistake when, as a U.S. senator in 2006, he voted against raising the debt ceiling, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said two days ahead of the president’s major address on fiscal policy.

After averting a government shutdown in an eleventh-hour budget deal Friday, the next fiscal battleground will be over whether significant spending cuts accompany a vote to increase the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. The debt ceiling is the legal limit on how much the federal government can borrow.

Obama, before casting his vote on March 16, 2006, said: “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America's debt limit.”

Carney said not raising the debt ceiling would be “calamitous” to the country. He also said the president would prefer a “clean bill” but would not say if he would veto a bill that tied a debt ceiling increase to additional spending cuts.

“The president regrets that vote and thinks that it was a mistake,” Carney told reporters Monday. “He realizes now that raising the debt ceiling is so important to the health of this economy and the global economy it is not a vote even when you are protesting an administration’s policies and play around with, and you need to take very seriously the need to raise the debt limit so the full faith and credit of the United States government will be maintained around the globe.”

Obama will speak from George Washington University Wednesday about the long-term fiscal situation in the United States. The address comes about one week after House Republicans led by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) released a budget that seeks the long-term reform of costly entitlement programs Medicare and Medicaid.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, wondered why Obama is delivering an address this week after he already submitted a fiscal year 2012 budget proposal.

“Today’s announcement that the president will deliver an address this week on deficit reduction is an apparent recognition that the budget plan he submitted to Congress, as required by law, fails to address our dire fiscal challenges,” Sessions said in a statement. “However, it will not be sufficient for the president to simply make a speech. Instead, he must fulfill his duty as president and submit a new budget plan to Congress specifically setting forth the changes he wishes to make to his previous proposal, including both mandatory and discretionary savings.”

The speech also comes just days after Obama and Senate Democrats worked out a deal with House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that cut $38.5 billion from the fiscal year 2011 federal budget that ends Sept. 30. That is one percent of the entire $3.8-trillion 2011 budget and six percent of the $653.4 billion in debt incurred already in the fiscal year.

“I agree that the reality of our one-term, one-year, six months now, continuing resolution is that it is but a portion of the problem, a small slice, an argument we were making for a long time in urging Congress to get done with that work,” Carney said. “What it does do is demonstrate a commitment to spending reduction, spending cuts and commits us to making tough choices that are not the consequences of an ideal world the president would want to make. It shows his willingness to compromise and find common ground.”