Instead, this New Year’s Day he tartly said, “We can’t not pay bills that we’ve already incurred.” Who is suggesting we don’t? Not House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, or any other Republican leader. Quite the opposite. They want to cover the cost of the existing debt while cutting spending to prevent a fiscal catastrophe.

Mr. Obama’s use of straw-man arguments to misrepresent the GOP’s position became tiresome long ago. He does this in part because he can get away with it, thanks to a compliant press corps. His reliance on the tactic may also spring from his recognition that he has a weak case and cannot win the argument otherwise.

For their part, Republicans finally appear reasonably united around something practical and reasonable—the “Boehner Rule,” named after its author. It requires matching any debt increase dollar for dollar with spending cuts. Here, the GOP will likely find wide public support. …

But this means House Republicans must pass a measure pairing specific spending cuts with a debt-ceiling increase that will have few, if any, Democratic votes. It would therefore be tactically wise for Republicans to draw many of these cuts from the recommendations of Mr. Obama’s own National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (aka Simpson-Bowles).