Stephanopoulos's Misleading Parting Shot

Stephanopoulos's Misleading Parting Shot

On ABC News’ This Week, House Speaker John Boehner told host George Stephanopoulos that the votes were not there to pass a “clean” debt ceiling increase–i.e. a plain increase with no changes to spending and none of the changes to Obamacare that Republicans have demanded in the battle over funding the government.

After Boehner made the point that the federal government has continued to incur deficits for “fifty-five of the past sixty” years, including a deficit near $700 billion this year, Stephanopoulos changed tack, but not before launching a parting shot between questions: “The deficit, as you know, has been coming down this year.”

That is true–and it is also the result of the Budget Control Act of 2011, i.e. the “sequester,” which President Barack Obama proposed during the last debt ceiling debate and has been trying to undo ever since. The sequester was meant to force Republicans to agree to tax hikes; instead, it spurred unwanted spending cuts.

Stephanopoulos meant the remark as a counter to Boehner’s claim that the president was not serious about reducing spending. It was also a way of undermining his guest’s credibility by suggesting that he was saying something he knew to be untrue. But Boehner would not deny the fact that the deficit has fallen.

Had he been given a chance, no doubt, Boehner would have pointed out that the deficit has fallen despite President Obama’s best efforts to keep spending, and that only the election of the House Republican majority slowed that spending slightly. Stephanopoulos did not, however, invite or allow a response.

For his part, Boehner was trying to project strength. House Republicans evidently believe they hold the trump card in the debt ceiling debate, in the form of the Full Faith and Credit Act, which funds debt obligations even if the debt ceiling is passed. The Senate refuses to pass it and President Obama has vowed to veto it.