Matt Miller - The Archives

Obama must kill the debt limit
The Washington Post, November 15, 2012

Everyone assumes the president has the leverage this time because if he does nothing the Bush tax cuts expire and he can propose fresh ones for 98 percent of the country.

But everyone's forgetting one thing: the debt limit.

Amazingly, no one asked about how it would affect the coming fiscal talks at the president's press conference Wednesday. But we're slated to hit the debt ceiling early next year, meaning it will be a central part of the kabuki dance that begins Friday at the White House. So the only way President Obama really has leverage is if he decisively removes the debt ceiling as a source of power for the Republicans.

Recall it was reckless GOP brinksmanship with the debt limit last time (and Obama's timidity in the face of it) that scared markets, gave us the United States' first-ever downgrade, and left the president looking weak.

For Obama's own sake—and for the sake of stable governance for future presidents of either party—the president can't let the GOP hold the country hostage via the debt ceiling again.

The question is whether Obama has learned from experience and has the stomach now for what's required. Bob Woodward's book "The Price of Politics" had some cautionary detail on this question that hasn't gotten the attention it deserves.

The so-called 14th Amendment option—which Bill Clinton suggested pursuing—was discussed in the Oval Office in July 2011 as the crisis peaked. The amendment reads in part that "the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law .