Psaki: Obama won’t ‘play chicken’ over debt limit

“Everyone in the White House, the president included, is happy to have this vote in the rearview mirror,” said Psaki, who served as Obama’s campaign spokeswoman, in an interview on CNN’s “Starting Point.”

Psaki said the White House hoped to avoid further protracted spending fights when negotiations begin on hiking the nation’s debt ceiling early in 2013 and the sequester kicks in in March. “Avoiding the fiscal cliff, making sure that the Congress votes to increase the debt limit, is not the White House’s and the president’s idea of a second-term agenda,” she said. 

“They’ve made no secret of the fact that they want to use that for spending cuts,” said Psaki of Republican lawmakers. “But there’s also the funding of the government, there’s the two-month extension of the sequester.”

President Obama on Tuesday night praised lawmakers for preventing a middle-class tax hike but cautioned Republicans not to use the debt ceiling to force another fight over spending. 

“While I will negotiate over many things, I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they’ve already racked up through the laws that they passed,” said Obama. 

“What the president was saying was, ‘I’m not going to play chicken with the debt limit. I’ve learned my lesson in 2011,’ ” Psaki said Wednesday. “This is something that impacts businesses, it impacts markets, it impacts the view of the world of the United States economy, and again, this isn’t something we should be fooling with.”

Psaki also rebuffed criticism from Democrats that the White House conceded too much in the tax deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. 

“Laws are not made by simply waving a wand and making it so. It involves compromise, it involves negotiation, and that’s what happened here,” she said.

Psaki said there was much that progressive Democrats “should be excited about in this package,” citing “extension of unemployment insurance, college tax credits, child tax credits, making the middle-class tax cut permanent.”

“Of course it wasn’t perfect, but Democrats have to be careful about not making the perfect the enemy of the good,” she added.