New Woodward Book Goes In Depth On Debt Battle

By: CNN Posted By: Stephanie Schultz
By: CNN Posted By: Stephanie Schultz

(CNN) -- Bob Woodward's new book, "The Price of Politics," unveils new details of last summer's debt ceiling battle between the White House and Congress with a behind-the-scenes look at an intense showdown.

The book describes the president in repeated negotiations with congressional leaders, as he considered vetoing a bill that would have prevented the government from defaulting on its loans.

CNN obtained a copy of the book prior to its release on Tuesday.

In July 2011, House Speaker John Boehner led Republicans to pass a proposal that would have raised the debt ceiling in two votes - the first occurring in 2011, the second occurring in the middle of the 2012 presidential race.

Hoping to avoid another high-stakes political fight in the midst if an election year, the president opposed the plan and expressed his concern with congressional leaders *and White House aides* in their private meetings, according to the longtime Washington Post reporter and editor.

"Adopting his law professor manner," Woodward writes, Obama asked "Could I actually veto it?...What would happen on the day of the veto? The day after?"

On the one hand, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner warned of an economic disaster.

"You can't veto," Geithner told the president, according to the book. "You cannot be responsible for default."

Then, Woodward writes, "Anything had to be done to prevent it. Anything to preserve the global economy."

On the other hand, Obama was faced with appearing politically weak and bowing down to Republican demands in one of Washington's most high-profile stalemates.

According to the book, David Plouffe, Obama's senior political adviser, said, "If he caves, it will have long-lasting political repercussions that we may never get out of. If we draw a line in the sand on something this important and cross it, we may never be able to come back."

The book also details Obama's frustration as he tried to convince congressional leaders to change the plan, one that even Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was behind. Woodward reports that the president called Boehner one night to urge him to back down from the agreement.

Woodward writes that Obama was "furious" and told Boehner he was not going to sign a bill that required him to deal with the debt ceiling a second time before the election.

Boehner described to Woodward that Obama was "moaning and groaning and whining and demanding" during the call, an account Obama disagreed with in his own interview with Woodward.

"Listen, anybody who knows me knows I don't moan, I don't groan, I don't whine." Obama told Woodward. "I'm not desperate. I was very angry about how he had behaved."

Ultimately, the president did not have to make a decision on whether to veto that version of the bill. Republicans dropped the two-vote measure as part of the deal that Congress reached on July 31, two days before default deadline.

For the book, Woodward said he talked to more than 100 people in hundreds of hours of recorded interviews. He also compiled thousands of pages of transcripts from the meetings for his research.

In his conclusion, Woodward gives both Boehner and Obama tough marks over how they handled the situation, essentially kicking the can down the road when it came to making the tough decisions to put the country on a better fiscal path.

The deal struck to raise the debt ceiling triggers massive spending cuts that start in January 2013, unless Congress can come up with a new agreement on how to reduce the deficit.

"You cannot help but conclude that neither President Obama nor Speaker Boehner handled it particularly well. Despite their evolving personal relationship, neither was able to transcend their fixed partisan convictions and dogmas. Rather than fixing the problem, they postponed it," Woodward writes.


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