Step one is for House Republicans to argue for and pass a debt-limit increase combined with present and future spending cuts. Mr. Obama will reject deep spending cuts and accuse Republicans of playing dangerous games with our financial system. So what next?
The president wants a very large increase in the debt ceiling—he and his team have demanded either no limit at all, or a five-year increase, which means at least a few trillion dollars. His obvious goal is to punt the issue past the 2014 midterm election. Yet if he has to ask Congress for a new increase every few months, the spending problem his administration has exacerbated in his first term will dominate the policy agenda—when he wants to work on other issues.
That brings us to step two, which is for congressional Republicans to offer Mr. Obama a choice. He can have a long-term debt-limit increase if he agrees to cut spending, or he can have repeated, short-term increases without spending cuts. If the president continues to dodge the country’s long-term spending problem, the solution is to force him to ask Congress every few months to give him the authority to borrow more while facing questions about why he refuses to restrain spending.