The debt ceiling is looming in the near future as members of both parties haggle over how to solve the issue of raising the credit limit on the US. Republicans want cuts and many are insisting on a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Democrats say they want cuts but also want to increase taxes. There is a stalemate as Tea Party Republicans buck the entrenched Republicans who would likely make another flop of a deal in order to get this done.
There is increased talk of Barack Obama doing an end run around Congress by invoking the 14th Amendment. Some legal scholars and Democrats say that Section 4 of the Amendment allows Obama to continue to incur debt because it reads (the applicable portion):
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.
The key here is debt authorized by law. The law is in place and that law imposes a debt ceiling. No president has the authority to incur more debt or to ignore the debt ceiling because that ceiling is authorized by law. Also, the new debt incurred by an end run would not be debt authorized by law because the Constitution gives the authority to incur and pay debt to Congress. Article I, Section 8 gives Congress the power; “…to pay the Debts…”
In addition, the second paragraph of that section states that Congress has the power:
To borrow money on the credit of the United States.
The Executive has no authority to raise the debt limit and therefore authorize the borrowing of money. Only Congress can do that. If Obama attempts to use the 14th Amendment to bypass Congress he will have violated the Constitution and will be subject to impeachment. The only thing that is authorized under the 14th is to pay the debt we already have. The validity of that debt, already authorized under Section 8, shall not be questioned.
Not to mention, the Amendment gives the authority over the matter to Congress. Section 5 reads; “Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”
Maybe it is just me but I don’t see where it says the president can do anything here.
We have the ability to pay our debt even if we hit the debt ceiling. We can service our debt from the money that is confiscated from us each month by the government. What will be required is for us to cut programs that are not authorized by the Constitution and are not part of the debt process. Our debt is held by private entities and other governments and we will be required to pay that.
We will not be required to pay for the plethora of programs that are not public debt.
There are legal scholars on both sides of this issue and it could get dicey. The reality is that an end run would incur more debt and that is not something any president is allowed to do.
Larry Rosenthal, a professor at Chapman University School of Law, said he doubts the argument that Obama could declare the debt limit unconstitutional. The debt ceiling, according to Rosenthal, limits the president’s ability to issue more debt. It doesn’t say that the existing debt is invalid. So if the president runs out of borrowing authority, he must find other ways — including suspending government programs — to pay the debt.
“What the government can’t do under the 14th Amendment is repudiate a debt that’s been authorized by law. It can’t say, ‘I’m not going to pay,’ ” Rosenthal said. Washington Post
If Obama does an end run he will effectively put an end to his reelection. He will be impeached and even if that is not successful, he will incur the wrath of the American public, the people who pay the bills.
Obama will find that he overstepped his bounds and that he will end up paying a heavy price.
And he will ensure that the GOP presidential candidate wins in a landslide and the GOP will pick up a lot of House and Senate seats.
As an aside, if this happens and nothing is done about it then Congress can never cry about any future leader taking its authority. No matter what, Congress will have to sit on its hands and be quiet.
Never surrender, never submit.