WaPo/ABC poll shows wide majority want debt limit, spending treated separately

posted at 1:51 pm on January 16, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

The new WaPo/ABC poll result doesn’t exactly contain any surprises, but it does corroborate Barack Obama’s winning streak on messaging.  With House Republicans on a retreat this week to consider strategies for dealing with the newly-re-elected President and a Senate that refuses to produce budgets, this data should have some questioning the impact of their disunity and lack of consistent messaging:

Republicans in the poll have also led the revival in Obama’s “strong leader” number. Overall, 61 percent see the president as a strong leader, up from 51 percent a year ago. Since then, there has been a 17-point increase among Republicans, from 18 to 35 percent.

Nearly half of Republicans also take the president’s side when it comes to one important aspect of the intense debate over the nation’s debt limit: that the issue of raising the borrowing limit should be separate from the identification of spending cuts.

Republican leaders in Congress have drawn a hard line that such cuts are essential to any legislative deal to raise the debt ceiling. Republicans in the poll, however, are divided on the issue: 48 percent say any increase in the debt limit should be tied to cuts, while nearly as many, 45 percent, say that the two issues should be isolated, discrete issues.

The general public sides with Obama on this question: 58 percent say cuts should be a separate matter, and 36 percent say they should be knotted with the borrowing limit. Obama also has the trust edge here: 49 percent say they have more confidence in him to handle the issue, compared with 35 percent who put more faith in the GOP.

With a 55 percent approval rating, Obama approaches another four-year stint a shade more well-regarded than his predecessor, George W. Bush, who carried a 52 percent rating into his second term. At this stage 16 years ago, when Bill Clinton prepared to take the oath of office for a second time, 60 percent approved of the way he was doing the job.

All polls are just a snapshot in time, and these attitudes could change.  However, it’s going to take some external stimuli to accomplish that, and so far the GOP seems out of the game on driving a message.  That may play into the strategic decision reached at the retreat this week about linkage/delinkage between the debt ceiling and spending cuts (which I have already suggested, along with Newt Gingrich and others).  If not, then Republicans had better start pushing a strong message soon about why the two should be linked.

They got a little support from a surprising source this week on that point, even if in a backhanded manner.  Fitch Ratings, one of the major bond rating agencies informing Wall Street investors, warned that a failure to achieve both a debt limit increase and significant spending cuts in the near term may result in a credit downgrade for US bonds.  Widely reported as just a warning on the debt ceiling, Fitch also warned on unrealistic spending levels and an inability to address them:

A major credit-rating firm warned it could downgrade the U.S. if lawmakers prioritize debt payments over other government obligations such as Social Security, or fail to tackle the nation’s growing debt burden in the ongoing budget negotiations.

Fitch Ratings, one of the ratings firms that are closely watching the U.S. inch closer to its borrowing limit, unveiled two potential routes to a downgrade Tuesday, laying out their analysis more specifically than in prior reports. …

Fitch said Tuesday that it may downgrade the nation’s debt even if lawmakers raise the debt ceiling, if Washington emerges from those negotiations without taking steps to lighten the U.S. debt load.

Fitch also poured cold water on “prioritization” as a strategy to use a credit limit to force Treasury to pay debt holders first at the expense of other obligations:

Also inconsistent with a triple-A rating, Mr. Riley said, is if lawmakers staring down the debt ceiling limit choose to make debt payments while skipping out—even temporarily—on Social Security payments or other government obligations.

“Living hand to mouth based on robbing Peter to pay Paul…that’s not what we associate with a triple-A rated government,” Mr. Riley said. A downgrade triggered by missed Social Security payments could be less severe than a rating cut following a missed bond payment, he added.

You know what else people associate with AAA-rated governments? Actual budgets. Earlier this week, the editors at Bloomberg exhorted Congress to bolster confidence in the US economy by returning to the normal process of budgeting, even if they somehow missed that point in their own argument:

So here’s another way to end the fight: Tie spending decisions to automatic increases in the debt limit. The premise is simple — when Congress passes a budget resolution or spending bill, it should also authorize a concurrent increase in the statutory debt limit to pay for what it’s authorizing. This would have the added benefit of fostering fiscal restraint by linking spending decisions to the Congress that authorizes the money. If that local airport runway (or, as the case may be, “Bridge to Nowhere”) is in the budget, then the Treasury Department can raise the debt limit to pay for it. No additional congressional action would be necessary.

It sounds absurdly unrealistic — no Congress, especially this one, would ever agree to such a plan. Except that it has: Such a rule has been in place since 1979. The Gephardt rule (named for its chief proponent, former Democratic House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt) was intended to avoid the exact scenario that’s occurring today, and it has worked: Of the 20 joint budget resolutions originated by the House under the Gephardt rule, 15 were enacted into law,according to the Congressional Research Service.

Unfortunately, the rule is not mandatory; each Congress can decide whether to follow it. And House Republicans have repeatedly decided not to, including in 2011, forcing a separate vote to raise the debt limit. That vote, once viewed as routine, has now repeatedly paralyzed the U.S. and threatened to derail the economy.

Well, why did that happen starting in 2011?  Because Senate Democrats haven’t passed a normal budget resolution since April 2009, that’s why.  Republicans would have no trouble linking debt limits to budget resolutions, if they could only get Senate Democrats to produce one.  It’s been well over 1,350 days since the House has seen one from the Senate, even though the Republican-controlled House passed one every year, as required by law.  Issues like tax rates, spending levels, and the debt ceiling would get resolved in conference committees — but that would require Democrats to go on record for a normal level of federal spending, rather than use continuing resolutions to sustain the inflated FY2009 levels of the financial crisis as the baseline.

That’s why the expiration of the current continuing resolution on March 27th provides Republicans with the highest ground on which to find for spending cuts.  It specifically attacks the real problems — spending and a lack of normal order — while shrugging off the debt ceiling as a symptom.  But that will also take some significant messaging by Republicans in order to shape the political battlefield, and this poll shows that the GOP has a long way to go on even that score.


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Irrelevant. It matters not what the majority want, if it conflicts with Barry’s goals.

hawkeye54 on January 16, 2013 at 1:54 PM

How can we win the war on messaging if the Media refuses to show our message?

NerwenAldarion on January 16, 2013 at 1:57 PM

Umm.. what I’m hearing Ed say is that we shouldn’t even bother… Heck why even run a candidate in 2016? Just let Hillary win unopposed.

Illinidiva on January 16, 2013 at 1:59 PM

I wonder how liberals will spin it when obozo says he needs a third term.

Flange on January 16, 2013 at 2:01 PM

What, another bs poll from ABC/WaPo? Really, more Republicans support Obamuh and want the two issues separate? Better label them RINOs right now–or are they just Dembeciles doing what they do best–lying.

stukinIL4now on January 16, 2013 at 2:02 PM

WaPo/ABC poll shows wide majority want debt limit effect, spending cause treated separately

A = not A.

The Age of Irrationality …

ShainS on January 16, 2013 at 2:03 PM

I see Obama as a “strong leader” also. You know who else is or was a strong leader? Castro, Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot…

Fenris on January 16, 2013 at 2:03 PM

It’s kinda difficult to win the message war when the other side owns the messenger.

Archivarix on January 16, 2013 at 2:04 PM

I wonder how liberals will spin it when obozo says he needs a third term.

For them, spin comes easily, so it won’t be difficult.

By 2015, the public will be begging him to continue on with leading us out of the abyss the nation will be in by then, abandoning the Constitution on the matter of presidential term limits.

“Help us Obama Wan Kenyabi, your’e our only hope!”

hawkeye54 on January 16, 2013 at 2:06 PM

hawkeye54 on January 16, 2013 at 2:06 PM

That one little thing strikes terror in my heart. Someone on the radio, I forget who, said that if the dems win the House and Senate in 2014, buy luggage and make sure your passport is up to date. Katie Bar the Door.

NJ Red on January 16, 2013 at 2:09 PM

hawkeye54 on January 16, 2013 at 2:06 PM
That one little thing strikes terror in my heart. Someone on the radio, I forget who, said that if the dems win the House and Senate in 2014, buy luggage and make sure your passport is up to date. Katie Bar the Door.
NJ Red on January 16, 2013 at 2:09 PM

I will be moving to Texas if that’s the case.

mrscullen on January 16, 2013 at 2:12 PM

Cave a rama

cmsinaz on January 16, 2013 at 2:13 PM

So no spending cuts then.

forest on January 16, 2013 at 2:13 PM

Sigh.

If re-electing Obama didn’t make it clear, the American people do not want responsible government. Trying to foist it on them is a losing message no matter how it’s done.

Let It Burn isn’t a political strategy; it’s a concession to reality.

It will burn because the American people are too stupid to know they can’t keep kicking the can down the road so they can get free sh*t forever and ever. They really do think everything will be hunky-dory if the rich “pay their fair share.” They don’t know there isn’t enough money in the entire economy to keep this going indefinitely.

In the meantime, it would be really nice if Boehner and other Republicans would stop sacrificing whatever miniscule amount of political capital they have to achieve practically nothing while accepting the blame for every (inevitably) bad piece of economic news that emerges. This is Obama’s fault, and he should get the blame.

DRayRaven on January 16, 2013 at 2:14 PM

Obama will have to seek the third term. He cannot risk being replaced by a Republican because, sooner or later, it means an eventual birth-certificate investigation. Incapable of strongarming the courts or manipulating the prosecution, Obama risks getting his whole two-term agenda voided – and that in addition to a very likely death sentence for high treason.

Archivarix on January 16, 2013 at 2:15 PM

Ed, please do let us know when the GOP establishment finds a hill they don’t mind challenging on.

sauldalinsky on January 16, 2013 at 2:15 PM

If the public wants the debt limit separated from spending cuts, then give them what they want.

Bring a bill to the house floor that raises the debt limit, while continually making the statement that the ratings agencies like Fitch and Moody’s will likely cut the United States’ debt ratings if there are no spending cuts, and that Obama knows this.

Then allow the Democrats to pass it, and run it over to the Senate.

When the Senate passes the bill and Obama signs it, and Fitch, Moody’s and other debt ratings agencies inevitably cut the U.S. debt ratings, Republicans can say, “See, we told you so. Why do you believe the President knows what he’s doing?”

Reno_Dave on January 16, 2013 at 2:15 PM

After all, it’s far easier to spend when there’s a fresh credit card in the wallet.

But don’t worry, the GOP will REALLY fight for non-defense spending cuts in the midterm elections, or is that in the 2016 elections, or perhaps after they officially disband.

Steve Eggleston on January 16, 2013 at 2:16 PM

It’s in library books.

Howard Roark — Romney and Palin both understood how to turn dollars.

Dicken’s Fagin— Obama and Clinton know how to cheat and mislead and create a dependent army.

IlikedAUH2O on January 16, 2013 at 2:17 PM

Let It Burn isn’t a political strategy; it’s a concession to reality.

DRayRaven on January 16, 2013 at 2:14 PM

Yep.

Fenris on January 16, 2013 at 2:18 PM

The main problem here is the American people, but it doesn’t help that nobody in the GOP has a functioning brain attached to a mouth.

Mark1971 on January 16, 2013 at 2:19 PM

Keep obstructing. In 2014/16 we’ll get the rest of the country back.

Gerrymandering means +7% popular vote to do that. It’s hard but not impossible to kick the rest of obstructionists out.

lester on January 16, 2013 at 2:22 PM

The media has always been against us and we’ve won a ton of elections. When the Democrats lost their butts in 2004 they didn’t become centrist, they moved hard left. They don’t eat their own at every opportunity and while I hate their policies and ideology, I admire their passion and convictions to their beliefs.
People respond to strong leadership when they think that leader believes what he says.
The Republicans prove every day they are as spineless as the French Army and Americans hate cowards.

Big Orange on January 16, 2013 at 2:23 PM

Big Orange on January 16, 2013 at 2:23 PM

About that “they don’t eat their own at every opportunity” bit, as part of their hard-left turn, they drove out all their moderates, not just from the Party of the Rat, but from politics entirely.

Steve Eggleston on January 16, 2013 at 2:26 PM

Keep obstructing. In 2014/16 we’ll get the rest of the country back.

lester on January 16, 2013 at 2:22 PM

If the dog-eating cretin has his way, by 2016 there won’t be enough of the country to speak of. “The rest” you will be getting back will have all the productivity, inflation level, and political atmosphere of Zimbabwe. And that is assuming conservatives don’t get pissed off enough to reenact the Independence War.

Archivarix on January 16, 2013 at 2:31 PM

But that will also take some significant messaging by Republicans in order to shape the political battlefield…

With Boehner and Cantor in supreme control. You jest.

Mr. Arrogant on January 16, 2013 at 2:32 PM

The media has always been against us and we’ve won a ton of elections. When the Democrats lost their butts in 2004 they didn’t become centrist, they moved hard left. They don’t eat their own at every opportunity and while I hate their policies and ideology, I admire their passion and convictions to their beliefs.
People respond to strong leadership when they think that leader believes what he says.
The Republicans prove every day they are as spineless as the French Army and Americans hate cowards.

Big Orange on January 16, 2013 at 2:23 PM

It sure helps to have the media on your side though. And regarding the Dems post-2004, they never let up on Bush. The Social Security debate, Katrina fallout, and ongoing chaos in Iraq(before the surge) helped them tremendously in turning public opinion against him. The problem with the GOP is they seem to be totally incapable of uniting in opposition against Obama.

I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that most Republicans are opposed to trillion-dollar deficits, 1.5% GDP, no budget for nearly 4 years, socialized medicine, new gun laws, and amnesty. Certainly we have our share of RINOs, but you would think given the agenda pushed by Obama and the Dems since 2009 would be enough to mobilize the party to contest it.

Doughboy on January 16, 2013 at 2:33 PM

With House Republicans on a retreat this week

The GOP has been retreating for longer than that….

gwelf on January 16, 2013 at 2:33 PM

The media has always been against us and we’ve won a ton of elections.

Big Orange on January 16, 2013 at 2:23 PM

The Republican party should fire the mealy-mouthed “No Labels” consultants who have shown poor election results and contract out messaging to the NRA. It’s still possible to speak around the Leftist Media, like Reagan did with strong Conservative principles and a plan of attack.

sauldalinsky on January 16, 2013 at 2:34 PM

If the dog-eating cretin has his way, by 2016 there won’t be enough of the country to speak of. “The rest” you will be getting back will have all the productivity, inflation level, and political atmosphere of Zimbabwe. And that is assuming conservatives don’t get pissed off enough to reenact the Independence War.

Archivarix on January 16, 2013 at 2:31 PM

I believe that definition of “rest” is lester’s goal.

Steve Eggleston on January 16, 2013 at 2:34 PM

People always prefer clean isolated votes. It doesn’t really work in this case though.

theperfecteconomist on January 16, 2013 at 2:35 PM

Keep obstructing. In 2014/16 we’ll get the rest of the country back.

Gerrymandering means +7% popular vote to do that. It’s hard but not impossible to kick the rest of obstructionists out.

lester on January 16, 2013 at 2:22 PM

How are Republicans obstructing Harry Reid from producing a budget?

gwelf on January 16, 2013 at 2:37 PM

Archivarix on January 16, 2013 at 2:31 PM

I agree the left’s policies are ruining the country, and we will be having inflation. But the road to Zimbabwe will take many decades, politicians will continue to kick the can down the road. And politicians, at least collectively, are very good at going right up to the edge and taking one step back. Nationwide violence isn’t going to happen, except maybe big city riots. That could happen this decade.

Fenris on January 16, 2013 at 2:40 PM

I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that most Republicans are opposed to trillion-dollar deficits, 1.5% GDP, no budget for nearly 4 years, socialized medicine, new gun laws, and amnesty. Certainly we have our share of RINOs, but you would think given the agenda pushed by Obama and the Dems since 2009 would be enough to mobilize the party to contest it.

Doughboy on January 16, 2013 at 2:33 PM

1.5% GDP growth is likely going to be optimistic. Some analysts are already projecting Q4 growth as low as 0.4%.

As for unity, the Delaware, Nevada (at least the 2010 version), Missouri, Indiana and Florida GOP, as well as Bo(eh)ner’s Boyz, all agree – the class enemy is not the Party of the Rat.

Steve Eggleston on January 16, 2013 at 2:41 PM

That may play into the strategic decision reached at the retreat this week about linkage/delinkage between the debt ceiling and spending cuts (which I have already suggested, along with Newt Gingrich and others). If not, then Republicans had better start pushing a strong message soon about why the two should be linked.
- Ed Morrissey

The problem I see with this is that it’s difficult to get Democrats to admit we have a spending problem much less acknowledge we have a massive entitlement spending problem and propose real solutions. The truth is that the Democrats have put our nation in a situation where we have to have a crisis like the debt ceiling in order to get them to pay attention and deal with the issue. You can argue that we’re better off letting the debt ceiling go and fight over the continuing resolution but we’ll have less leverage over the continuting resolution.

gwelf on January 16, 2013 at 2:44 PM

Majority wants to enslave the next generation to their comforts and luxuries today. No surprise there, it does not have to be this way, all we need is for an articulate person to tell them repeatedly during a campaign that it just is not moral to pass onto the next generation debt built through handing out comfort and luxuries to today’s entitled classes.

We had a campaign not long ago, and while he touched it for a microsecond, I would argue 30 straight months of it, along with a call for Cut, Cap and Balance would have changed this poll to a large degree.

astonerii on January 16, 2013 at 2:46 PM

That’s why the expiration of the current continuing resolution on March 27th provides Republicans with the highest ground on which to find for spending cuts. It specifically attacks the real problems — spending and a lack of normal order — while shrugging off the debt ceiling as a symptom. But that will also take some significant messaging by Republicans in order to shape the political battlefield, and this poll shows that the GOP has a long way to go on even that score.

- Ed Morrissey

What leverage do Republicans have over the CR? All they have is political leverage which as you point out the Republicans cannot muster or even appear to have a will to wield. The debt ceiling debate has leverage that isn’t completely dependent on GOP messaging and political muscle – the law stops the borrowing. Of course GOP messaging is needed in order to make a debt ceiling stand off effective but they need the help of an actual consequence they can hold over Democrats who continue to ignore our problems.

gwelf on January 16, 2013 at 2:53 PM

If the dog-eating cretin has his way, by 2016 there won’t be enough of the country to speak of. “The rest” you will be getting back will have all the productivity, inflation level, and political atmosphere of Zimbabwe. And that is assuming conservatives don’t get pissed off enough to reenact the Independence War.

Archivarix on January 16, 2013 at 2:31 PM

Blah blah blah. Heard all the with Clinton. The country was still right there and better than ever by the end of his term.

lester on January 16, 2013 at 2:55 PM

This is so demoralizing. Let the have their clean bill with mostly Democratic votes or all Democratic votes with House Republicans voting present. Let them keep their spending levels. Let them own it all. Concentrate on the 2014 off-year elections when I hope a new party emerges from the ruin of the current GOP.

We lost, and the house GOP leadership lacks the strategic imagination or even the will necessary to eke out whatever gains it can from the position that it is in. So let it burn. May the temple crash down on all their heads.

Or I suppose a miracle could happen.

casuist on January 16, 2013 at 2:55 PM


Blah blah blah. Heard all the with Clinton. The country was still right there and better than ever by the end of his term.

Different era. The 90s were a relative boom time, no thanks to Clinton’s policies except when he decided to cooperate with a GOP house and senate. The new normal is an economy in acute decline trending into a general collapse.

casuist on January 16, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Blah blah blah. Heard all the with Clinton. The country was still right there and better than ever by the end of his term.

lester on January 16, 2013 at 2:55 PM

Clinton? The guy who worked with the GOP Congress to push welfare reform and a tighter budget?

Are you suggesting we should return to Clinton levels of spending?

gwelf on January 16, 2013 at 2:59 PM

Blah blah blah. Heard all the with Clinton. The country was still right there and better than ever by the end of his term.

lester on January 16, 2013 at 2:55 PM

Umm.. I’m fine with bringing back Clinton’s policies as long as we also bring back the major techonology and information revolution responsible for the tech boom. Not seeing any new Internet on the horizon.

Illinidiva on January 16, 2013 at 3:01 PM

there is no debt limit…

equanimous on January 16, 2013 at 3:01 PM


Let It Burn isn’t a political strategy; it’s a concession to reality.

Yes, and if you’re falling off of a cliff, you may as well try to fly. I mean, hey, what do you have to lose?

Let it burn. There is no way to politically educate the electorate now other than to allow the laws of physics to have their way.

casuist on January 16, 2013 at 3:01 PM

Blah blah blah. Heard all the with Clinton. The country was still right there and better than ever by the end of his term.

Clinton’s budget performance benefited tremendously from the Dot-com Bubble that vastly improved capital gains and income tax receipts from 1997 through 2000.

Nobody predicted it, and it’s bursting is what led to the recession that Bush inherited in 2001.

Reno_Dave on January 16, 2013 at 3:03 PM

Sever spending from the debt limit? That plays into Obama’s plan, which is to ignore any role of the true value of goods and services in directing society and replacing it with his vision of a good, just, and right society. He’ll print money as necessary, and then decide who gets what.

Paul-Cincy on January 16, 2013 at 3:04 PM

Oh please, no more of this . . . The ABC/WaPo poll reflects the party line of ABC and The Washington Post and has little or no correlation to the demands of the public. Stop passing on this trash without comment, it’s deceiving and counterproductive.

rplat on January 16, 2013 at 3:04 PM

WaPo/ABC poll shows wide majority want debt limit, spending treated separately

…HA HA HA HA HA AH HA HA HA HA AH HA HA HA!
…stop!…I’m going to wet myself!

KOOLAID2 on January 16, 2013 at 3:08 PM

lester on January 16, 2013 at 2:55 PM

…when…when was your closed head injury again?…what year?

KOOLAID2 on January 16, 2013 at 3:11 PM

The doom and gloom is over-wrought, over-done and self-fulfilling.

Yes, we lost a presidential race 51-47 and Obama had Senate race coattails, Both were an unpleasant surprise.

But we held the House, for whatever reason(s).

Leaders shape public opinion. The House GOP needs to get unified on a strategy, and then execute.

The nation is not beyond redemption and is still worth fighting for.

matthew8787 on January 16, 2013 at 3:12 PM

It seems that the debt limit battle is a political loser… I think the Republicans in the House are meeting today to discuss what to do with the debt limit… We shall see soon…

mnjg on January 16, 2013 at 3:22 PM

It’s quite simple:

NO DEBT EXTENSION unless the Senate passes a budget.

It doesn’t even matter what they put in it because:

1. Democrats will be exposed as the irresponsible spendaholics that they are.

2. The two bills (House and Senate) will go to a conference comittee where a lot of the spending items won’t survive.

And

3. The government will not be able to use continuing resolutions to continue to spend at 2009 (stimulus inflated) levels.

Danger on January 16, 2013 at 3:25 PM

Leaders shape public opinion. The House GOP needs to get unified on a strategy, and then execute.

matthew8787 on January 16, 2013 at 3:12 PM

There does seem to be room for gloom and doom… Have you noticed who are current leaders are?

astonerii on January 16, 2013 at 3:27 PM

Umm.. what I’m hearing Ed say is that we shouldn’t even bother… Heck why even run a candidate in 2016? Just let Hillary win unopposed.

Illinidiva on January 16, 2013 at 1:59 PM

Ed is the leader of the French Brigade of the GOP – surrender makes you stronger.
Until the GOP takes the offensive, escalates the war with the madia and makes the public more aware of media bias, nothing will change.

bw222 on January 16, 2013 at 3:50 PM

It’s quite simple:

NO DEBT EXTENSION unless the Senate passes a budget.

It doesn’t even matter what they put in it because:

1. Democrats will be exposed as the irresponsible spendaholics that they are.

2. The two bills (House and Senate) will go to a conference comittee where a lot of the spending items won’t survive.

And

3. The government will not be able to use continuing resolutions to continue to spend at 2009 (stimulus inflated) levels.

Danger on January 16, 2013 at 3:25 PM

Except for the fact that the continuing and omnibus appropriations bills the past 2 years haven’t exactly dropped spending from 2009 levels because Porkulus got permanently baked into the “mandatory” side of spending and the House RepublicRATs don’t have the balls to strip any spending,….

Steve Eggleston on January 16, 2013 at 4:17 PM