Senator Obama’s Vote Against Raising the Debt Ceiling and the Assassination of Salman Taseer: Today’s Q’s for O’s WH -1/5/2010

Jan 5, 2011 2:30pm

TAPPER:  You referenced Austan Goolsbee's –
                                                                                                                                                  
GIBBS:  Yes.
                                                                                                                                   
TAPPER:  — comments about the debt ceiling — debt ceiling.  I wanted — I wanted to read you this quote from a senator:  The fact that we're here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign — is a sign of leadership failure.  Leadership means 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.  I suspect you know who I'm quoting.                                                          

GIBBS:  Joe Biden?                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                                 
TAPPER:  That is –                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                                
GIBBS:  (Chuckles.)  I know.  Barack Obama from 2006.                
                                                                                                                                                  
TAPPER:  That is Senator Barack Obama in 2006 voting against raising the debt ceiling.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                               
GIBBS:  And I think what is important is, it's — understand that the — raising the debt limit was not in question in the outcome.

TAPPER:  It passed 52 to 48.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                                     
GIBBS:  — in the outcome of that vote.                                               
                                                                                                                                                    
TAPPER:  It was a close vote, 52 to 48.                                                                 
                                                                                                                                                  
GIBBS:  Well, we've had closer.  (Chuckles.)  I think — I think it's important that the outcome — based on the outcome of that  vote, the — as I mentioned, the full faith and credit was not in doubt.  The full faith and credit of our — of our government and our  economy was not in doubt. And the president used it to make a point about needing to get  serious about fiscal discipline.  And we, as I've said earlier, are dealing with the legacy of decisions that have been made over the past many years — not paying for a prescription drug benefit, not paying for wars, not paying for tax cuts — that changed our fiscal situation much more markedly than anything ever had.

So I think it is up to and it's important for Congress – because we know — not to play politics with this, not to play games – to find a way to raise that debt limit,  understanding that we have to — as I mentioned to Matt, we're going have to have to take some serious steps to get our fiscal house in order. But we understand — we know what happens.  We know the catastrophic actions with things like Social Security and Medicare if you threaten the solvency of the government.
                                                                                                                                                  
TAPPER:  So he — so he — so he only voted that way because he knew that it was going to pass?                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                               
GIBBS:  I think clearly he was sending a message.                                                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                                   
TAPPER:  But he knew it was going to pass.  That's why he voted – 
                                                                                                                                                  
GIBBS:  Again, his vote was not necessarily needed on that.      
                                                                                                                                                    
TAPPER:  So, I guess, then, just extending that, it would be okay for other senators to do the same thing this year as long as they know that ultimately — (inaudible)?                                                             &#0160
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GIBBS:  There may be some that send a message, but I think  what is important is that the ultimate bottom line is, we shouldn't upset the notion of that full faith and credit.  We shouldn't — we shouldn't, as some have rhetorically done leading up to this, suggest that that's a good way to deal with this, is simply to let — to not pass that extension.   We understand — as Austan said — and, look, Austan is a very bright economist — the effects of something like that, as he said last weekend, would exceed anything that we saw in the financial collapse in 2008.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                                   
TAPPER:  All right. And just a quick question about the assassination of the governor of Punjab in Pakistan.  I was wondering if you could put the assassination in the context of the president's Af-Pak review, whether you think it indicates anything about how successful efforts are to root out extremism.  The governor is regarded as the best spokesman against extremism since Benazir Bhutto.  If you could comment on that.

GIBBS:  Look, I think, first of all, I think it's important that we — that our government express our condolences.  As you mentioned, this is an individual who had worked hard to promote tolerance.     And his loss is a great one for Pakistan. Secretary Clinton met with the Pakistani ambassador yesterday to personally pass along the president's condolences.  I would simply say, Jake, that we remain committed to the efforts that the Pakistan government is and must undertake to root out violent extremism and to bring greater peace and stability to that country and to that region of the world.     

-Jake Tapper

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