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'Obama Refusing to Negotiate Is Unprecedented': Wallace Challenges Lew on Debt Ceiling

On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace grilled Treasury Secretary Jack Lew over the Obama administration’s handling of the government shutdown. Congress has until October 17 to raise the debt ceiling, or the United States will default for the first time in its history. President Obama has warned about the damaging economic repercussions a default, though the markets seem unaffected at this time.

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Wallace asked Lew, “Aren’t your efforts failing to try to use to the markets to put pressure on Republicans to cave?”  

Lew said there’s a range of how bad the consequences would be, but added, “Why would anyone want to do that to the American economy, at a time when the American people are showing their resilience, recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression.”

The president recently said that never in American history has the threat of not raising the debt ceiling been used to force other issues. Wallace pointed out the inaccuracy of that statement. Since 1978, the debt ceiling has been raised 53 times, and 27 of those times, it has been linked to something else. Among the conditions were campaign finance reform, school prayer and busing, and a nuclear freeze.

“What’s unprecedented is not Congress tying strings. What’s unprecedented is the president refusing to negotiate,” Wallace said.

Lew rebutted, “I think your history is wrong. If you look at the cases where the debt limit was involved, there were many other things attached to the debt limit, but the question of threatening to cause a default of the United States – not until 2011 did it become a positive agenda.”

Wallace interjected, “In 1973, Democrats in the Senate – including Ted Kennedy and Walter Mondale – wanted to attach campaign finance reform, under Richard Nixon during Watergate, to raising the debt limit. [...] Republicans had to filibuster to defeat it and take it out.”

He also pointed out that Speaker of the House John Boehner has said he doesn’t want to default. “If it was good enough for Bill Clinton to sit down and negotiate with the House Speaker, why isn’t good enough for Barack Obama?”

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Lew shot back, “[Boehner] also didn’t want to shut the government down, and here we are with a government shutdown.”

He called the shutdown a “self-inflicted wound” and said these “manufactured crises” are bad for the economy. “That is not the way we do business. [Congress needs] to do their job. They need to open the government; they need to fund our ability to pay our bills. These are old bills, Chris, these aren’t new bills.”

Wallace then repeatedly pressed Lew on how many people signed up for ObamaCare last week. “Do you not know how many people have signed up, which would seem to indicate another major software glitch, or is it that the number is embarrassing small?”

Lew did not give a number, and instead answered, "The fact that so many millions of people rushed to get information is a good sign.”

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