Kyl: Obama prioritizing election over economy

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Ariz., discusses what's next in the debt ceiling negotiations on CBS' "Face the Nation" July 24, 2011
CBS Photo / Mary F. Calvert

Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., said Sunday he was "confident" that Congress would reach a deal on raising the debt ceiling - but that President Obama would first have to decide to put the nation's economic interests ahead of his re-election campaign.

In an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation," Kyl argued that a short-term extension - which would increase the debt limit ceiling into next year - was a viable option, but that the president objected to it because "the single most important thing to [him] is extending this beyond his re-election campaign."

"Nobody wants the credit of the United States to be called into question. And I'm confident that that will not occur, that we will pass an extension of the debt ceiling," said Kyl. "And the only question is for how long.

It's interesting that since 1972 Congress has raised the debt ceiling for six months or less 38 times. So we can surely extend it for five or six months, have this committee of Congress come back and report on the way to continue to reduce our deficit, and in that way avert the disaster and make forward progress.

"He just doesn't want to have to deal with it again," Kyl added.

House Speaker John Boehner abandoned debt negotiations with the president on Friday, and accused Mr. Obama of having "moved the goal posts" by increasing the amount of revenue sought for deficit reduction by $400 billion.

Now Boehner says he hopes to introduce a framework for a deal on the debt limit later on Sunday. That framework would likely include a two-part plan, with two debt limit increases.

Mr. Obama, however, has vowed not to sign a short-term debt limit, and argues that the debate over a subsequent raise in the debt ceiling will only grow more contentious as election season move sinto full swing.

"If we think it's hard now, imagine how these guys are going to be thinking six months from now in the middle of election season when they're all up. It's not going to get easier; it's gonna to get harder. So we might as well do it now, pull off the Band-Aid, eat our peas," Mr. Obama said in a July news conference.

Democrats has characterized Republicans as obstructionists, saying "no" to any deficit reduction plan that would increase tax revenues.

Kyl argued today that the White House - not the GOP - was the group saying "no" to finding a solution.

Referencing White House Chief of Staff William Daley's contention earlier on the program that Republicans were refusing to compromise, Kyl said, "Now who's saying 'My way or the highway'? The House of Representatives twice now has passed budgets. And the second time, this 'Cut, Cap and Balance' would have extended the debt ceiling. Twice the Senate Democrats voted no. So the question is, what can we do now?"

When asked by Schieffer if a failure to reach a deal might tag the GOP as the "Party of No" among voters, Kyl objected.

"I would just put it the other way," Kyl said. "The first thing I pointed out, that twice Congress has passed something, [Republicans] said 'yes' to something, and gotten strongly criticized. As you know, when the Ryan budget passed, the president, a lot of his folks, came out and savaged it. But they've never put a budget on the table. So twice the Republicans have said, 'yes.'

"The only thing we haven't said 'yes' to is job-killing tax increases," Kyl added.

Later on the program, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., argued that Democrats objected to the short-term deal not because of the impending presidential elections but because it would damage the economy.

"Those who give us a rating, our credit rating for the United States of America - Moody's, Fitch, Standard & Poor's - have told us, 'Don't do that,'" he said about a short-term deal. "A short-term extension of the debt ceiling is going to jeopardize our economy at a time when the global economy is so weak, [and] when we're facing a downgrade of America's credit rating.

"They have warned us not to do it, and Speaker Boehner is ignoring that warning," Durbin said.

The Illinosi Democrat argued that because Republicans were walking away from the debt limit negotiations, they would be the ones responsible if the U.S. were to default on its loans.

"We know that Majority Leader Cantor walked out of the negotiations with Vice President Biden. We know that Speaker Boehner walked out of negotiations with the president, not once but twice," Durbin said. "[Defaulting] is going to hurt us. It's going to stall our recovery. And I might say to Speaker Boehner, he should remember six words: If you break it, you own it. In this situation, he has the responsibility to lead his Republican caucus and to help this nation move forward in a stronger economy."

Durbin said that if Congress fails to approve a debt limit increase, Americans would be hit hard financially - and likened the effects to the imposition of a new tax.

"The reality is, if we fail to extend the debt ceiling of the United States, we will be imposing a new tax on working families and businesses across America," he said. "They'll see it in their credit cards. They'll see it in their home loans and their automobile loans. This is a tax which will be imposed because Speaker Boehner refuses to consider a tax on the wealthiest people in America."