It is time for President Barack Obama finally to step up to the plate and demonstrate the leadership voters expected when they sent him to the White House. A single sentence from him would end the bitter dispute over increasing the nation's debt ceiling.
But Obama is unlikely to speak it because he is more concerned with being re-elected than with the prospect of our government defaulting on its financial obligations.
With some members of Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, starting to sound nearly frantic over the possibility of a default, Obama is the only roadblock to compromise.
Here is why:
Debt ceiling bills proposed by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., are remarkably similar. Both would require some cuts in federal spending during the next 10 years. Both would require creation of a congressional commission to study deficit spending and recommend ways to reduce it.
But the big difference between the Boehner and Reid plans is timing. Boehner would increase the debt ceiling by about $900 billion, requiring the commission mentioned above to suggest more spending cuts by early next year. Reid would increase the debt limit by about $2.4 trillion - meaning there would be no formal discussion of the nation's staggering reliance on deficit spending until sometime early in 2013.
Obama has said he would veto the Boehner bill, but likes the Reid plan. Quite simply, he doesn't want voters to be reminded of the debt crisis - and it is just that - next year while he is running for re-election.
Some lawmakers, including Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., probably don't want that, either. But as they have demonstrated time and time again, they will do Obama's bidding.
The president, then, could avoid a default by announcing he is not afraid of discussing the debt next year and will go along with the Boehner plan.
Reid and Pelosi could avoid default by choosing the good of the nation over loyalty to their president.
No matter what happens, the choice in Washington will amount to failure or greater failure. That is because neither Boehner nor Reid has proposed long-term spending discipline. Rest assured, our nation's creditors are aware of that. Enactment of either bill still could lead to a downgrading of the nation's credit rating, and that would be costly to virtually every American.
At least Boehner's bill doesn't kick the can down the road until 2013, however. But, again, Obama, Reid and Pelosi want to do just that solely for political reasons.
If Reid and Pelosi will not rebel against Obama, thoughtful Democrats in Congress should rebel against all three. It's time for some leadership in Washington.