WASHINGTON -- This week's House vote against raising the debt limit was a long-overdue, fist-shaking declaration of public outrage at the runaway spending that endangers America's economic security.
The muscular 318 votes against the administration's request to sharply raise the debt ceiling from $14.3 trillion to $16.7 trillion was a rare bipartisan rebuke of President Obama. Every Republican voted against the debt hike, along with nearly half the Democrats.
Republicans want to use the debt-raising bill as a vehicle for deep spending and borrowing reductions over the next 10 years. Obama wants a "clean bill," separating it from the fierce spending battle he faces over the fiscal 2012 budget later this year. He lost on both counts.
"Tonight's vote illustrates that there is no support in the People's House for a debt limit increase without real spending cuts and binding budget process reforms," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia said after the vote Tuesday night.
It was not only a big victory for the Republicans who now rule the House, especially for the newly elected tea party forces who swell their ranks, but also a jaw-dropping demonstration of the political power of the spending issue in the 2012 presidential election cycle.
The message the vote sent to the White House was simply this: Your spending binge days are over. No debt limit increases without commensurate cuts in spending. House Republicans repeated that message in a meeting with Obama on Wednesday. The meeting ended with no give on either side.
The impasse revolves around both the depth of the budget cuts Republicans are demanding and the administration's insistence that there is relatively little it wants to cut, but that higher taxes must be a major part of any deal. That's not only a nonstarter but a losing proposition for Obama and his party, politically, fiscally and, most important, economically.
You'd think the White House had learned its lesson last year when it knuckled under to GOP demands to extend all of the Bush income tax cuts in the face of an economy still struggling to climb out of the recession. The war cry among Republicans then, and even some Democrats, was, "This is no time to be raising taxes."
Incredibly, though, Vice President Joe Biden, who is leading the budget negotiations, said this week that the White House insists higher taxes must be a part of any budget agreement. His timing could not have been worse.
An already anemic economy was showing disturbingly new signs of weakness, signs that have drawn silence from the West Wing and Democrats in Congress.
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