John 'Ideology First!' Boehner is good at issuing them. It should come as no surprise that he has once again told the world that he is willing to see the US default rather than even contemplate raising taxes.

"there will be no tax increases"  ((in any deal to raise the debt limit))

There's only one thing to do when your hard-to-handle child threatens to turn blue and kill himself if he doesn't get his way -- ignore him.

The President of the United States, acting on his Oath of Office to uphold the Constitution of the United States, should immediately state that he will not allow the validity of the public debt nor the country's obligations -- already authorized by last year's budget -- to be questioned, and instruct the Secretary of the Treasury to pay all our obligations starting August 2nd if a clean bill to raise the debt limit is not on his desk to be signed.

I don't really care if it is constitutionally controversial for him to do this. I know that very intelligent people, including constitutional scholars, honestly disagree. That's good enough for me. If it were blatantly unconstitutional, or even if the vast majority of constitutional scholars thought it an absurd interpretation of the 14th amendment, it would be different.  But they don't.

Let's stop this nonsense right now.

The odds are that Congress will fold at the point an ultimatum is issued. Presented with the threat of a fait accompli they will likely cough up a clean debt ceiling limit bill, or pass some sort of "give the President the responsibility" bill.  Which may not be what the President wants -- an odious 'grand bargain' -- but if, as Speaker Boehner has made clear, there is no grand bargain to be had, then he will sign a bill that prevents both a financial and a constitutional crisis.

What if they don't fold? The Republic -- and the world -- will still be saved for the nonce from the threat of a second financial meltdown.

And then, if the Congress dares, let them challenge the President at the US Supreme Court (odds are they won't, because they will be so relieved that the President will have shouldered all the responsibility for the votes they themselves have taken to spend over the debt limit). Let SCOTUS sort this out months down the road.  Meanwhile the country -- and the world -- can soldier on.  

In the interim, Congresspeople can stand in their empty chambers and speak to a CSPAN audience of hundreds on the evils of the debt and the deficit for as long as they care to bloviate. Or they can figure out how to get Americans employed again. Their choice.

Some historical background:

Article I Section 8 of the United States Constitution gives the Congress the sole power to borrow money on the credit of the United States. From the founding of the United States through 1917 Congress authorized each individual debt issuance separately. In order to provide more flexibility to finance the United States' involvement in World War I, Congress modified the method by which it authorizes debt in the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917. Under this act Congress established an aggregate limit, or "ceiling," on the total amount of bonds that could be issued.

The modern debt limit, in which an aggregate limit was applied to nearly all federal debt, was substantially established by Public Debt Acts passed in 1939 and 1941. The Treasury has been authorized by Congress to issue such debt as was needed to fund government operations (as authorized by each federal budget) as long as the total debt (excepting some small special classes) does not exceed a stated ceiling. Since 1979, the House of Representatives by rule has automatically raised the debt ceiling when passing a budget, except when the House votes to waive or repeal this rule.

The most recent increase in the U.S. debt ceiling to $14.294 trillion by H.J.Res. 45 was signed into law on February 12, 2010.

Courtesy of Angie in WA State from the comments.

Originally posted to jpmassar on Thu Jul 21, 2011 at 10:32 AM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Policy Zone.


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