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The Debt Ceiling And Moral Authority

When Barack Obama was a Senator, he voted against raising the debt ceiling, a vote he now concedes was "political." Republicans say this proves, as Karl Rove puts it, "The president has no moral authority to insist Congress raise the debt ceiling without restrictions." This is a confused concept.

Traditionally, the debt ceiling vote was an opportunity for the out-party to embarrass the majority, nothing more or less. Obama as senator did not demand concessions in order to let the debt ceiling be raised. Indeed, nobody in either party has ever previously demanded this.

Now, to be sure, I don't blame Republicans for taking the debt ceiling hostage. They're just using their leverage to advance policies they believe in. I blame Obama for handing them power that no president has ever previously ceded to Congress.