Obama has said he would veto any extension for less than 18 months. But as Chambliss notes, any bill that passes will require at least some Democratic support in the Senate, and President Ronald Reagan faced four extensions the year he ran for re-election.
“If the president vetoed that bill, he not only owns (responsibility for) the economy right now, but then he certainly owns the credit default that would result from the failure of the raising of the debt ceiling,” said the Georgia Republican. “So, I think he would sign whatever comes to his desk with respect to the term of the debt ceiling debate.”
Chambliss also dismissed speculation that Obama would try to bypass Congress’ debt ceiling completely by invoking the 14th Amendment that contains a provision declaring the payment of all outstanding loans a priority of the federal government. It was passed in response to the massive debts piled up during the Civil War.
“Republicans and Democrats both would go ballistic if he makes an attempt to do that,” Chambliss said.
The federal government is expected to reach the debt ceiling, or borrowing limit, set by Congress on Tuesday.
If it isn’t raised. Obama will have to make tough choices about which expenses to pay with the available money. For instance, Social Security checks are due to be issued the next day.
Chambliss said he would advise the president to pay Social Security recipients and the military, noting both have a large presence in Georgia. Chambliss said those two areas would have the biggest impact on the state in case the ceiling isn’t raised in time.
The senator has been part of a bipartisan group in the Senate negotiating a long-term plan for reducing federal debt through future spending cuts and the instant closing of tax loopholes. That Gang of Six hasn’t been involved with working out a solution for the immediate question of whether to raise the debt ceiling.
He predicted House passage of Speaker John Boehner’s plan for an extension until the middle of next year and that the Senate would pass an 18-month extension with the two sides hashing out a deal over the weekend.
"This town is pretty dysfunctional right now,” he said. “That's all the more reason why I think a bipartisan plan (like the Gang of Six proposes) is important."