- The Washington Times - Monday, April 11, 2011

With a showdown over the nation’s debt ceiling looming next month, White House spokesman Jay Carney on Monday said President Obama regrets voting against an increase in the federal borrowing limit in 2006 as a freshman senator from Illinois.

At the time, Sen. Obama joined 47 colleagues to vote against raising the nation’s borrowing limit - a vote he said signaled “leadership failure” by the George W. Bush administration. Senators narrowly passed the measure by a vote of 52 to 48.

Mr. Carney said the president has since come to view that position as a “mistake.”

“He realizes now that raising the debt ceiling is so important to the health of this economy and the global economy that it is not a vote that, even when you are protesting an administration’s policies, you can play around with, and you need to take very seriously the need to raise the debt limit so that the full faith and credit of the United States government is maintained around the globe,” Mr. Carney told reporters.

Fresh off Friday’s narrowly averted government shutdown, Congress and the president face another impending fight next month, when the federal government is expected to exceed its $14.25 trillion debt ceiling.

Republicans have pounced on what they describe as hypocrisy given the fierce lobbying by Mr. Obama and his team to ensure lawmakers vote in favor of a debt increase. The Senate GOP campaign arm put out a release citing a number of current Democratic senators up for re-election who voted against the 2006 increase.

“As the debt limit vote approaches, and the president puts pressure on Senate Democrats to join him, I would remind you that the president isn’t the only Democrat who will have to ‘explain away the apparent contradiction’ on this issue,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh said.

The GOP has threatened to block the increase unless it contains significant deficit-reducing measures. The White House, for its part, has called for a “clean” bill to raise the debt ceiling, arguing that lawmakers should not link deficit reduction to the debt limit vote.

Mr. Carney’s predecessor, Robert Gibbs, had defended Mr. Obama’s 2006 vote, saying the bill would have passed with or without his approval.