White House issues veto threat to Boehner plan; Update: Kabuki?

posted at 3:52 pm on July 26, 2011 by Tina Korbe

A number of news outlets made much of the fact that President Barack Obama nowhere used the word “veto” in his speech last night. Smart on his part. An ugly word like “veto” would have marred the moderate, reasonable image he sought to project. A president incessantly threatening vetoes isn’t exactly a president seeking a solution and certainly isn’t a president ready and willing to do whatever it takes to avoid the default he himself has hyped up.

But, today, the executive office of the president at the Office of Management and Budget released its statement of official policy on the plan House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) released yesterday and brought to the House floor today at 3 p.m.:

The Administration strongly opposes House passage of the amendment in the nature of a substitute to S. 627.  If S. 627 is presented to the President, the President’s senior advisors would recommend that he veto this bill.

Consider the president to have whispered “veto” under his breath last night, after all.

The veto threat comes on the heels of Sen. Harry Reid’s comment that Boehner’s compromise plan would be “dead on arrival” in the Senate. (Reid: “Democrats will not vote for it. Democrats will not vote for it. Democrats will not vote for it.”)

The Boehner plan garnered the official endorsement of at least two GOP presidential candidates — former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Budget Committee and architect of his own groundbreaking budget, also expressed support for Boehner’s Budget Control Act. But the plan also attracted a lot of criticism from the more conservative wing of the Republican party because it fails to secure the passage of a balanced budget amendment and because its cuts and caps are not specified.

Now, all of that seems moot as the president refuses even the watered-down version of the solution Republicans originally offered. The president’s excuse for the veto threat? He doesn’t want to deal with the debt ceiling issue again before the 2012 election. But, as with “Cut, Cap and Balance,” if the new Boehner plan really is the best the House can do at this point (that is, if they’re not going to revive CCB), the House should still pass the bill and force Reid and Obama to make good on their promises.

Update (Allahpundit): Nate Silver is spot on, I think:

If Obama really wants to kill off the Boehner plan he should endorse it.

Exactly. The taint of a Hopenchange endorsement would have poisoned the bill for House conservatives. Instead Obama did the opposite, threatening — without quite promising — to veto it if it comes to his desk. Which, of course, he won’t. If Boehner’s plan somehow wriggles through the Senate and Reid’s bill dies in the House, ain’t no way no chance no how Obama is going to own the economic crisis that may or may not follow a default by rejecting a Republican plan to raise the ceiling at the very last second. What he’s doing here, I think, is practicing a bit of kabuki that achieves two things: It pressures congressional Democrats to line up behind Reid’s plan, which Obama prefers, but it also gives reluctant conservatives a reason to rally behind Boehner’s plan, which O will need as a last-ditch escape hatch before August 2 if Reid fails. As much as he may hate a short-term debt ceiling increase, he’d hate a new recession even more given what it would mean for his reelection. He’ll sign it if he has to.


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