WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will attack the president for the debt ceiling during his "closing argument" in West Allis, Wis., on Friday, ignoring Republicans' role in bringing the country close to defaulting on its loans and putting the blame squarely on President Barack Obama's shoulders.
"You know that if the President is re-elected, he will still be unable to work with the people in Congress," Romney will say, according to excerpts released by the campaign Friday, shortly before the rally. "He has ignored them, attacked them, blamed them. The debt ceiling will come up again, and shutdown and default will be threatened, chilling the economy. The President was right when he said he can't change Washington from the inside. In this case, you can take him at his word."
Of course, the debt ceiling fight didn't quite work that way. Congress could not come to an agreement in 2011 on raising the debt ceiling until a last-minute deal, based partly on obstructionism from Republicans in the House. That failure to come to an agreement partially led to a credit-rating downgrade by Standard and Poors.
The GOP has consistently blamed Obama for failing to lead on the issue. But there's evidence to the contrary. The president attempted to work with GOP leadership last summer to offer a "grand bargain" on spending that included Republicans' request for major cuts, but, faced with major opposition from his conference, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) refused to agree to that deal.
The Treasury Department has said the government will hit its debt limit by the end of the year, although the government may be able to extend the limit, as it did in 2011, to avoid default. The next president, then, will likely have to come up with a deal quickly.
Republicans hope to include cuts in any sort of budget deal, but Meredith Shiner reported on Friday that the Romney campaign did not respond to Roll Call when asked about Romney's stance on the debt ceiling, including the question of whether he would push for cuts similar to those Boehner advocated in 2011.
Romney will promise in his Friday speech to make both sides come to an agreement -- a tough task, if it is like last year's fight.
"When I am elected, I will work with Republicans and Democrats in Congress," Romney will continue. "I will meet regularly with their leaders. I will endeavor to find those good men and women on both sides of the aisle that care more about the country than about the politics. Together, we will put the nation on track to a balanced budget, to reform our tax code, and to finally reaffirm our commitment to financial responsibility."
UPDATE: 1:32 p.m. --Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who is not exactly a Romney fan, threw cold water later Friday on the idea that Romney will be able to easily work with Democrats in the upper chamber.
"Mitt Romney's fantasy that Senate Democrats will work with him to pass his 'severely conservative' agenda is laughable," he said in a statement. "In fact, Mitt Romney’s Tea Party agenda has already been rejected in the Senate ... Senate Democrats are committed to defending the middle class, and we will do everything in our power to defend them against Mitt Romney’s Tea Party agenda."