Barack Obama sounded stern in an interview with CBS due to air Tuesday night. For the first time, the president warned that if an agreement about raising the debt ceiling isn't reached by August 3, the government could be compelled to halt crucial benefits for the elderly, veterans and the disabled. When asked by CBS Evening News' Scott Pelley about the fate of social security in the event that the government misses the debt ceiling deadline, Obama called for a bigger picture understanding of the issues at stake.
"This is not just a matter of Social Security checks," said Obama. "These are veteran's checks, these are folks on disability and their checks. There are about 70 million checks that go out each month. I can not guarantee that those checks go out on August 3rd if we haven't resolved this issue. Because there may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it."
Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall wondered when Obama would be cornered into threatening to cut benefits in a Monday night blog post. Marshall explains the strategy:
If Hill Republicans will not allow the government to continue borrowing money beyond the current statutory debt limit, I think there's probably a decent constitutional argument that the president must shut down parts of the government and many government payments before defaulting on the country's debt obligations.… There's enough money coming into the Treasury to service the payments on the current debt. But if you don't borrow more money you have to shut down vast amounts of federal outlays. And the most logical places to start are with Social Security payments and Medicare reimbursements.