The debt ceiling debate began in earnest Monday, and President Obama is attempting to do more than merely win the debate -- he's first trying to change the terms of it altogether. Rather than argue over whether the debt ceiling should be raised to authorize more borrowing, Obama is instead arguing that Congress is voting simply to pay the bills that it has already racked up -- a semantic difference, perhaps, but a very important one at the same time.
In effect, Obama is trying to shift the burden of failure to Republicans in much the same way he did during the fiscal cliff debate. Republicans have labeled Obama as a "big spender" with considerable success, but the president is now trying to argue that it's actually Congress that has racked up that debt, and now it's time to pay the piper. Republicans, not surprisingly, disagree with this framing of the debate, but it might be hard for them to win. After all, the Constitution makes clear that Congress has the authority to spend and borrow money, not the president.
The question is whether you believe that the money is already spent and the bills are already racked up, as Obama says. Or whether you believe, as Republicans can argue, that spending cuts would make it so those same bills could be paid off without raising the debt ceiling.