The president is giving Congress the silent treatment. He’s refusing to talk, even though the federal government is about to hit the debt ceiling. That’s a shame—because this doesn’t have to be another crisis. It could be a breakthrough. We have an opportunity here to pay down the national debt and jump-start the economy, if we start talking, and talking specifics, now. To break the deadlock, both sides should agree to common-sense reforms of the country’s entitlement programs and tax code.
First, let’s clear something up. The president says he “will not negotiate” on the debt ceiling. He claims such negotiations would be unprecedented. But many presidents have negotiated on the debt ceiling—including him. In 1985, Ronald Reagan signed a debt-ceiling deal with congressional Democrats that set deficit caps. In 1997, Bill Clinton hammered out an agreement with congressional Republicans to raise the debt ceiling, reform Medicare, and cut capital-gains taxes. Two years ago, Mr. Obama signed the Budget Control Act, which swapped spending cuts for a debt-ceiling hike.
So the president has negotiated before, and he can do so now. In 2011, Oregon’s Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and I offered ideas to reform Medicare. We had different perspectives, but we also had mutual trust. Neither of us had to betray his principles; all we had to do was put prudence ahead of pride.
If Mr. Obama decides to talk, he’ll find that we actually agree on some things. . . .
Read the full op-ed at the Wall Street Journal.