BY TOM COLE
President Obama spent the last press briefing of his first term lecturing Congress to "pay the bills they have already racked up." "They" is a curious choice of pronoun for a president who has accumulated more debt than any chief executive in history.
The year President Obama was elected, the annual deficit was $459 billion. His first year in office brought the first $1 trillion deficit in U.S. history -- followed by the next three. The president must think it a coincidence that a Congress that had never produced a trillion-dollar deficit before suddenly generated four in a row -- one for each year of his tenure. Under the Obama administration, the national debt has ballooned from $11 trillion and 70 percent of GDP to $16.4 trillion and 105 percent of GDP.
The president's posture as a bystander helpless to control a rogue Congress on a spending rampage is severely undermined by the facts. President Obama's first major act as president was to pass a "stimulus" bill with a price tag of almost $1 trillion. Although not a single Republican in the House voted for the bill, Democratic super majorities in both chambers of Congress pushed the stimulus into law. In spite of vigorous protests by the American people, Obamacare was forced through Congress via the same process. White House claims that the policy would cost a staggering $840 billion have been dispelled by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that Obamacare will actually cost a projected $1.9 trillion and force between 3 and 5 million Americans out of their employer-provided health insurance.
Fed up with out-of-control spending and government expansion, the American people made a change. The 2010 midterm elections decisively ended Democratic control of the House and put a record number of conservatives in office. But while the balance of power in Congress changed, President Obama's spending philosophy did not. His most recent budget proposal in 2012 called for $47 trillion of spending over 10 years and would actually have increased the national debt to $25.9 trillion by 2022.
If this seems like the behavior of a president unaware of the grave threat posed by government spending, it is. During the December negotiations over the fiscal cliff, the president reportedly stated, "We don't have a spending problem." This is a stunning declaration from the elected official with the most power -- and responsibility -- to lead America out of a catastrophic debt crisis in the making.
After four years of failed fiscal policy from his administration, it should be no surprise that the president is now calling for a blank check to raise the debt ceiling with no spending cuts attached. President Obama claims he won't even discuss the debt ceiling with Congress. He'll get no objection from a Democratic Senate that hasn't even passed a budget in nearly four years, but the Republican House is another story. House Republicans -- and the American people -- understand that we do indeed have a spending problem. While conservatives in Congress opposed the massive debt increases President Obama has accumulated, we do have a duty as a co-equal branch of government to clean up the mess. We will exercise that duty in the coming months.