Obama Exclusive: Concedes Senate Vote Against Raising Debt Limit Was 'Political'

In my exclusive interview with President Barack Obama, the president acknowledged that Democrats are going to bear the "burden" of extending the national debt limit later this spring – and he explained for the first time that only when he became president did he understand why his 2006 Senate vote against raising the debt limit was wrong:

George Stephanopoulos: You’ve got to extend the debt limit by May. And it seems like you made up the job-- your job is a lot tougher because of your vote in the Senate against extending the debt limit…When did you realize that vote was a mistake?

President Obama: I think that it’s important to understand the vantage point of a Senator versus the vantage point of a…President. When you’re a Senator, traditionally what’s happened is this is always a lousy vote. Nobody likes to be tagged as having increased the debt limit for the United States by a trillion dollars… As President, you start realizing, "You know what? We-- we can’t play around with this stuff. This is the full faith in credit of the United States." And so that was just a example of a new Senator, you know, making what is a political vote as opposed to doing what was important for the country. And I’m the first one to acknowledge it.

George Stephanopoulos: But now Senator McConnell is-- is talking to a lot of the Republican Senators about doing the same thing. Saying, "Let’s just have 51 Democratic Senators."

President Obama: Right…My suspicion is that the burden is going to fall a lot on Democrats in the Senate to make this happen, but in both chambers, we’re going to need some votes from the other side.

This was the president’s first broadcast interview since announcing his re-election last week and addressing America’s debt crisis yesterday. He was in an expansive and feisty mood:

  • Taking on Rep. Paul Ryan’s contention that yesterday’s speech “poisoned the well” for upcoming budget talks and outlining what he thinks can be achieved right now.
  • Saying what he would – and would not – do about rising gas prices.
  • Giving his view of the choice voters will face in 2012, and his first take on a re-election pitch.
  • And opening up with what he really thinks of Donald Trump riding the “birther” issue to the top of the GOP 2012 field.

My exclusive interview with Obama will air tonight on “World News” and I’ll be releasing a full transcript right here on my blog at 6:30pm.

-- George Stephanopoulos

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