Coburn: Debt ceiling doesn't exist


Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) says the debt ceiling does not exist, and the nation wouldn’t default if the limit weren't raised. 

“The debt ceiling has never not been raised, so there is no debt ceiling. And by having a debt ceiling and then raising it every time, it allows the politicians off the hook for making the hard choices,” Coburn said Wednesday morning on CNN’s “New Day.” 

Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has said the government would be left with just $30 billion in cash reserves to pay all its bills on Oct. 17, exhausting his agency’s ability to use “extraordinary measures” to keep the government’s bills paid.

Obama administration officials and independent economists have warned it would have cataclysmic effects on an already fragile economy. 

Coburn, one of the most conservative members of the Senate, says he wants to negotiate with Democrats and President Obama on raising the debt limit and funding the government. 

“I’d rather have a managed catastrophe now, which I don’t think will be there,” Coburn said.  

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The federal government shutdown is in its ninth day, and the debt-ceiling deadline is a week away. 

“Here’s the thing that all the media does — default equals not raising the debt ceiling. That’s not true. … Those are two different and distinct things. I’m not saying we shouldn’t pay our bills,” Coburn said. “What I’m saying is we should put ourselves in the position where we have to start making hard choices now.”

Obama has repeatedly said he wouldn’t negotiate with Republicans over funding the government and the debt ceiling. On Tuesday, the president suggested at a White House press conference that he’d be open to a short-term deal for the time being. 

Members of the various congressional caucuses have been invited to the White House to sit down with Obama starting Wednesday to discuss how to move forward in the fiscal debate.