Pawlenty 2012: Default or Bust

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 15 2011 8:08 AM

Pawlenty 2012: Default or Bust

He's been on this beat for a while, but Tim Pawlenty has stepped up his rhetoric on the debt ceiling

President Obama has set up a false choice, saying either raise the debt ceiling or we’re going to default. He could by executive direction order the Treasury, or Congress could pass a law ordering the Treasury to sequence our bill payments with the existing cash flow to make sure that our outside creditors and places like the military get paid first so there is no default. That would buy more time to have the fuller discussion about the structural reform that we need in Social Security and Medicare and other entitlement programs.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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Howard Kurtz followed up:

Such a move would seem certain to frighten the credit markets, but when I slid into the seat next to Pawlenty and asked him about it, he insisted that Obama had set up a "false choice" and that there is "enough cash flow" to stretch things out while Congress pushes for a leaner budget.

 

This is fairly stupid. The idea of punting on the limit and letting Treasury pink-swear to pay off debt has been rejected by Tim Geithner and Eric Cantor, the latter saying this in March.

My sense is if we are going to give the President the authority to wake up each morning and decide which bills to pay, that strikes me as conflicting with our notion that we are a nation of laws. And if we are going to then go and prescribe which things are more important to be paid, why don't we just go and cut? Why don't we just go and make the tough decisions ourselves, rather than go in and offlay that job to the President?

One fluke of the 2012 presidential race is that it doesn't include any members of the Senate. It only includes, theoretically, two members of the House: Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul. Both of them work independently of leadership and rarely or never cast tough compromise votes. So there's no pressure for Pawlenty to endorse a compromise position -- he hasn't really done so since he supported the 2010 tax cut deal. And with no pressure compelling him to compromise, he chooses to take the position that makes no sense.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.