White House press secretary Jay Carney signaled for the first time today that President Obama would sign a short-term extension of the debt ceiling if it was needed to finalize the details of a larger agreement.
“We would not support a short-term extension absent an agreement to a larger deal,” he said. “That's not acceptable. Obviously, if both sides agree to something significant, we will support the measures needed to finalize the details of that.”
Republicans have said the amount by which the debt ceiling is raised must be matched dollar for dollar in deficit reduction. The president has said the debt ceiling must be raised to get the federal government to at least 2013, which would necessitate that it be raised by about $2.4 trillion. Right now all sides only agree on approximately $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction over the next decade.
Carney said “if both sides agree to something significant, we will support the measures needed to finalize details. But there is no extension without an agreement on something big — a firm, committed agreement on something big….We are not wavering on the president's absolute assertion that he won't sign, you know, a…sort of a tollbooth kind of series of provisions that temporarily or in a limited fashion raise the debt ceiling and we have to relitigate this again and again and again, not just because it's unpleasant — in fact, not principally because it's unpleasant for everyone involved — because that's bad for the economy. It sends the wrong signal to everyone around the globe about Washington's capacity to deal with its fiscal issues.”
After the briefing, Carney just put out a statement to clarify that he mean the White House would accept a short-term extension of only “a few days… to allow a bit of extra time for a bill to work its way through the legislative process.”