Gibbs defends Obama 2006 vote against raising debt ceiling

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Wednesday defended a 2006 vote by then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) against raising the nation’s debt ceiling.

The vote to raise the debt ceiling will be a major battle this year because Tea Party-backed conservatives have vowed to let the government default on its debts rather than authorize a raising of the $14.3 trillion limit. Republican leadership is expected to use the situation to force deep spending cuts to the 2012 budget.

White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee said over the weekend that such a vote would be a product of “insanity.”

Gibbs was asked about Obama’s 2006 vote and statement that “the fact that we’re here today to debate raising America’s debt is a sign of leadership failure.”

The reporter said Obama had said it was wrong to vote to raise the debt ceiling because “Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren.”

Gibbs said Obama’s vote was not necessary at the time to secure passage of the bill, which squeaked by 52-48, and that he was using the occasion to call for fiscal discipline.

“I think it’s important that the outcome — based on the outcome of that vote, as I mentioned, the full faith and credit was not in doubt — the full faith and credit of our government and our economy was not in doubt. And the president used it to make a point about needing to get serious about fiscal discipline,” Gibbs said.

He said the situation now is different because the ceiling might be raised.

“We know not to play politics with this, not to play games, to find a way to raise that debt limit,” Gibbs said, adding “we understand, we know what happens, we know the catastrophic actions with things like Social Security and Medicare if you threaten the solvency of the government.”

Asked if it would be fine for senators today to vote against raising the debt ceiling, Gibbs said, “There may be some that send a message. But I think what is important is that the ultimate bottom line is we shouldn’t upset the notion of that full faith and credit. We shouldn’t, as some have rhetorically done leading up to this, suggest that that’s a good way to deal with this, is simply to let — to not pass that extension.”