WASHINGTON — As a contingency plan in the event Congress fails to act on the debt limit before the Aug. 2 deadline, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and two other conservative Republicans introduced legislation Wednesday to ensure the federal government continues to pay interest on its debt and the salaries of armed services personnel.
Bachmann, a presidential candidate, reiterated her position that President Barack Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are exaggerating the risks associated with a failure to increase the debt limit, contending that the country has enough revenue every month to continue to pay for the interest incurred on its debts as well as several government obligations, such as military salaries and Social Security payments.
She’s vowed to vote against any debt limit increase unless it’s associated with a repeal of the Obama health care law.
“This is a misnomer, that I think the President and the Treasury Secretary have been trying to pass off to the American people, and it’s this: that if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion that somehow the United States will default and we will lose the full faith and credit of the United States,” she said at a press conference.
“That is simply not true. Revenue will continue to come in to the United States Treasury. It’s merely the President’s obligation and the Congress’s to make sure that the interest is paid on the debt. We’re grateful that revenues are sufficient to be able to pay interest on the debt.”
President Obama told CBS News on Tuesday that some seniors might not receive their Social Security checks if the debt limit isn’t increased. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said that without the ability to borrow, the federal government would be forced to make decisions about what obligations it would fund with its existing revenue, setting up a “Sophie’s choice situation” for lawmakers and the Treasury.
Bachmann, as well as the bill’s co-sponsors Louie Gohmert of Texas and her close ally Steve King of Iowa, said their bill sets a priority for what to fund under such a scenario. They sidestepped questions about which programs should not be funded.
“We are setting a priority. We are protecting military pay, and we’re protecting the full faith and credit of the United States,” King said.
Several high-ranking Republicans, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and House Speaker John Boehner, have concurred with the president’s position that there is an urgent need to pass an increase in the debt limit. The controversy lies in what the package of spending cuts and potential revenue increases should be associated with raising the ceiling.
“I agree with the president that the national debt limit must be raised, and I’m glad that he made the case for it today,” Boehner said at a Monday press conference. “But the American people will not accept — and the House cannot pass — a bill that raises taxes on job creators.
But Gohmert said Boehner, along with Obama, was “getting bad advice.”
“The problem with the Speaker and him saying that is he believes the president,” he said. “I would encourage the speaker not to believe the president when he says things like that.”
An undertone of presidential politics
Though the press conference was meant to focus solely on the new bill, Bachmann dipped into campaign mode occasionally, using her time on the stump to illustrate voters’ distaste for raising the $14.2 trillion debt limit.
She mentioned her campaign stop at Cemen Tech in Indianola, Iowa, a business she said has lost 50 percent of its employees, “because the economy is tanking.”
“This is Washington, we’re all in a bubble here,” she said. “I’m spending my time in Iowa and South Carolina and New Hampshire, where the real world is. The real world is telling all of the politicians, ‘Get your act together. Stop being political. Stop playing with us. We’re not pawns in your game.’ ”
She told another story about a voter who told her that “as President of the United States, I want you to give this country back to the people.”
“The pulse of the American people is there,” she said, “They are very worried about America’s future and I think we need to pay heed.”
At one point, Gohmert listed a series of industries the government has invested in and said it should cut back there to save money.
“I look forward to, whether it’s this president or perhaps another one, even somebody here in this room, who will stand up and say, ‘We’re going to be OK,’ ” he said, prompting a smile from Bachmann.
Devin Henry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.