WASHINGTON -- With states and cities already suffering the consequences of the nation creeping toward hitting the legal debt limit, one Democratic governor is accusing Republicans of bringing the government to default in an effort to kill President Obama's reelection chances.
Democratic Governors Association Chairman Martin O'Malley (D-Md.) took several sharp swipes at congressional Republicans on Tuesday during a sit-down interview with The Huffington Post. The topics covered ranged from tax cuts to deficit reduction, but the gist of each was the same: O'Malley said the GOP was willing to derail the country's economic recovery so long as it gave Republicans a gateway to the White House.
"[T]he new breed that is leading the Republican Congress have, I think, nothing but a short-term goal in mind. And that is to keep the president from winning a second term," said O'Malley, who had come to Washington D.C. for a round of media interviews. "They accomplish that one way and one way only and that is to stop the jobs recovery -- to put a halt to the jobs recovery -- and, if possible, to reverse the jobs recovery."
"They have two means for accomplishing that one goal," O'Malley said. "One is with deep, debilitating and crippling cuts to that common endeavor of ours known as the public sector. The other way is to force the United States needlessly into a default position -- either of which would do such damage to job creation, consumer confidence and investor confidence that they would accomplish their goal of halting the jobs recovery in order to keep the president from getting reelected."
"I think it is politics masquerading as fiscal responsibility," O'Malley added. "Where were these sanctimonious Tea Party-ing republican congressmen when George Bush was charging a series of desert wars to our children's credit cards? Where were these sanctimonious, antique FDR haters when George Bush was running up the biggest deficit of all time?"
O'Malley's assessment of the debt ceiling debate is one of the bluntest offered by a Democrat to date. Few in the party have accused GOP negotiators of rank partisanship, instead pointing to Republicans' faulty economics. The president and his team, in fact, have continuously insisted that there is common ground to be found in debt ceiling discussions -- a sentiment that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) echoed himself.
"I do think that there are areas in which we can find some commonality," the Virginia Republican said last week ahead of a second round of debt ceiling discussions with Vice President Joe Biden.
The Republican Governors Association did no return a request for a response to O'Malley. But Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called his logic "backwards."
"Republicans are working to pay down our massive debt while preserving and protecting Medicare and Medicaid for the next generation," Steel said in an email statement. "Democrats are squandering the future by spending money we don't have (borrowed from China), scaring seniors with lies about Medicare, and mocking the American peoples' concerns about crime and violence in a border region plagued by murderous criminal gangs."
Don Stewart, a top spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), meanwhile, quibbled with O'Malley's account of the nation's fiscal trajectory.
"Given [the governor's] concerns about 'record' deficits before -- deficits that were significantly smaller than under this administration -- that could be taken as one heck of an indictment of his Democrat friends and this administration," said Stewart. "I'm sure that, upon reflection, he would walk that back though."
O'Malley comes to the debt ceiling debate from a different perch than members of Congress. As The Huffington Post's Will Alden reported, the first "losers" as the federal government approaches the debt ceiling will be cities and states.
Slightly more than a week ago, the U.S. Treasury stopped issuing special securities that helped state and local governments pay off their debts -- the first in a series of "extraordinary measures" aimed at delaying a federal default until early August.
"I could see it being a real problem for [governors and mayors], on top of all the headaches they have already," David Johnson, a partner at the Chicago-based ACM Partners, a boutique financial firm that advises struggling municipalities, said.
With the debt limit deadline approaching, the DGA has also begun warning lawmakers about the repercussions that default could have on states. The DGA has distributed talking points that note a default could result in the suspension of Medicaid payments, increased financing costs for infrastructure projects and a severe cut to public services.