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Next crisis?


President Obama is ratcheting up the pressure on Republicans to give in to his demand to unconditionally raise the debt ceiling.

Speaking at a press conference earlier this week, he said it would be “absurd” and “irresponsible” for Congress not to increase the nation’s $16.4 trillion debt ceiling, which it has reached. The government has been using emergency measures to continue paying bills, such as halting payments to federal pensions. But those measures will run out in late February or early March.

President Obama made an emotional pitch for support from senior citizens and veterans when he speculated that “Social Security checks and veterans benefits will be delayed” in what, the Associated Press noted, is often referred to as “the Washington Monument ploy.”

It is meant to highlight the more obvious and harmful consequences in a worse-case scenario to win support. The threat of delayed Social Security payments will be more likely to mobilize senior citizen lobbies.

President Obama made it again clear that he was not ready to negotiate with Republicans over the debt ceiling. Republicans want to tie it to talks over budget cuts slated to take effect in March.

“They will not collect a ransom in exchange for not crashing the American economy,” he said.

Republicans responded with their own demands to tie debt ceiling negotiations to deficit reduction talks.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said that “the president needs to get serious about spending, and the debt limit debate is the perfect time for it.”

Republicans have proposed legislation to allow payment of government bills to be prioritized, something the administration has rejected.

But the partisan sniping and scare tactics, even if a negotiating ploy to gain advantage with the public, are unproductive. The country’s bills have to be paid. And spending, especially the cost of entitlements, has to be restrained. The two need to be tackled together so Washington and the nation don’t lurch from one confrontation to another.

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