Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for honesty, having misled Congress about President Barack Obama’s debts, and having claimed–falsely–that Obama’s budgets were stalled in the Senate because of a Republican filibuster threat. On Sunday, Lew tried again on NBC News’ Meet the Press–this time claiming the GOP had threatened default during the 2011 debt ceiling talks.
Republicans did not threaten default. A handful of conservative Republicans–notably, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)–suggested that hitting the debt ceiling would be acceptable because it would not mean the U.S. would have to default, i.e. that the Treasury could meet the government’s obligations while holding back some discretionary spending. Regardless, that view was never the majority or official bargaining position.
As Lew well knows, the sticking point during the 2011 negotiations was the president’s insistence on tax hikes. He scuttled a “grand bargain” on deficit reduction by demanding $400 billion in tax hikes at the last moment, leading to the Budget Control Act, which included the sequester (about which the Obama White House has never ceased to complain, but which was its own idea, and which is helping decrease the deficit.)
Lew was such a bad actor during those talks that Republicans specifically asked the White House to exclude him from negotiations. “I don’t need somebody who just knows how to say no,” Speaker of the House John Boehner said. Breitbart News’ Mike Flynn predicted in January that Lew’s nomination was a sign that the White House would refuse to compromise with Republicans. Indeed Lew refuses even to negotiate.
The Obama administration is once again trying to force through tax hikes and spending increases by accusing Republicans, preemptively, of wishing the country to go into default. It has repeatedly rejected Republican attempts to ensure that debt ceiling talks do not have that consequence. So it is Obama, and Lew, who are actually using default as a threat. Lew’s failed attempt at rewriting history is clearly part of that strategy.