In March 2006, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., found the notion of raising the debt ceiling quite distasteful.
“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure,” he said. “It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … 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 and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.”
He did. It passed narrowly – by a vote of 52-48.
In January, I asked then-White House press secretary Robert Gibbs about those comments and that vote, given the president’s belief that the debt ceiling needs to be raised in May.
Gibbs said it was OK for then-Senator Obama to have cast that vote, since the outcome was guaranteed.
“Based on the outcome of that vote…the full faith and credit was not in doubt,” Gibbs said. Then-Sen. Obama used the vote “to make a point about needing to get serious about fiscal discipline….His vote was not necessarily needed on that.”
On Sunday, senior White House adviser David Plouffe revised that explanation.
“He believes that vote was a mistake,” Plouffe told Fox News Sunday.
And today White House press secretary Jay Carney said that “the president, as David Plouffe said yesterday, regrets that vote and thinks it was a mistake. He realizes now that raising the debt ceiling is so
important to the health of this economy and the global economy that it is not a vote that, even when you are protesting an administration's policies, you can play around with, and you need to take very seriously the need to raise the debt limit so that the full faith and credit of the United States government is maintained around the globe.”
Referencing Gibbs’s response three months ago, AP reporter Ben Feller asked Carney, “When did the president come to the realization this was a mistake?”
“Well, we asked him, and he made clear that he now believes it was a mistake,” Carney said. “And he understands that when you're in the legislature, when you're in the Senate, you want to make clear your position if you don't agree with the policies of the administration.”