The Washington Times - July 15, 2011, 01:19PM

President Obama said Friday that his least-preferred option in the ongoing spending talks is a “clean,” unconditional debt limit increase without any spending cuts or tax increases attached — reversing his position from earlier this year when the White House said that would be using the debt issue as a “hostage.”

For months, the White House had insisted on raising the government’s borrowing limit without conditions,. But in a press conference Friday Mr. Obama said that’s now the “least attractive option” — essentially ruling out the fallback option the top Senate Republican proposed this week.

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“If we take that approach, this issue is going to continue to plague us for months and years to come,” the president said in his third press conference in three weeks, as he tried to take his case directly to voters. “I think it’s important for the American people that everybody in this town set politics aside, that everybody in this town sets our individual interests aside and we try to do some tough stuff.”

Until now, the White House position had been that attaching conditions to a debt increase amounted to being “held hostage,” and had said the issues of a debt increase and spending cuts should not be linked.

Now though, sending an opening to outbid the GOP, Mr. Obama has explicitly linked the two options.

“We have two problems here. One is raising the debt ceiling. This is a problem that was manufactured here in Washington because every single one of the leaders over there have voted for raising the debt ceiling in the past, and it has typically been a difficult but routine process. And we do have a genuine underlying problem that our debt and deficits are too big,” he said.

Earlier this week Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, proposed essentially giving Mr. Obama the authority to raise the debt through a complex legislative process that would have reduced the GOP’s ability to block him, but also shifted the political burden to the White House.