White House: Obama "regrets" 2006 vote against raising the debt ceiling

President Barack Obama speaks after a meeting with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., at the White House in Washington, regarding the budget and possible government shutdown, April 7, 2011.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Monday that President Obama "regrets" having voted against raising the debt ceiling in 2006, and that he "realizes now" how crucial approving raising the limit is to "the health of this economy and the global economy."

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The debt ceiling, which is the legal limit on borrowing by the federal government, currently stands at $14.3 trillion. According to projections by the Treasury, the U.S. government is expected to hit that figure by the end of May. If Congress does not approve an increase to the limit, the federal government could default on its bonds for the first time in history, and Social Security and Medicare checks would likely see delays as a result of the government's inability to make payments to agencies.

The White House is urging Congress - and particularly House Republicans, who are threatening to block a vote on the measure - to swiftly approve an increase in the ceiling. Various administration officials have warned that a failure to do so would almost certainly result in economic catastrophe.

In an interview over the weekend, senior White House adviser David Plouffe urged Congress not to play "brinksmanship" with the "full faith and credit of the United States," and Sen. Chuck Schumer, speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," warned that a congressional stalemate on raising the debt ceiling would be "playing with fire."

"Failing to raise the debt ceiling would be Armageddon-like in terms of the economy, on the impact on interest rates, on job creation, on growth," Carney said during his daily press briefing on Monday.

Mr. Obama, however, voted against a similar billin 2006.

Arguing that "America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership" and that "Americans deserve better," Mr. Obama joined 47 other senators in voting against the bill. (It passed with just 52 votes.)

In his briefing on Monday, Carney emphasized that Mr. Obama had since seen the error of his ways on the importance of increasing the debt limit.

"The president, as David Plouffe said yesterday, regrets that vote and thinks it was a mistake," Carney told reporters. "He realizes now that raising the debt ceiling is so important to the health of this economy that it is not a vote that even when you are protesting an administration's policies you can play around with."

Carney emphasized that the president "has shown that he is committed to deficit reduction, and we do not need to play chicken with our economy by linking the raising of the debt ceiling to anything."

"We should do that right away," he added.

When asked about the statement Mr. Obama made back in 2006 regarding his opinion on the issue, Carney said "when you're in the Senate, you want to make clear your position, if you don't agree with the policies of the administration."

Mr. Obama will deliver a major speech on Wednesday outlining his plans for reducing the deficit.

Carney told reporters on Wednesday that he wanted Obama to have the chance to "speak for himself on Wednesday," but that "[the president] will very clearly lay out his vision for deficit reduction, the need for it to be balanced, the need for it to be bipartisan, the need for it address the long-term drivers of our debt and for everyone to share in the burden of bringing our fiscal house into order."