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GOP Caves on Debt Ceiling

Updated 5:33 pm ET

In a victory for President Obama, House Speaker John Boehner this evening is moving a “clean” increase the debt limit, failing to tie it to any spending cuts, changes in Obamacare or any of the other ideas previously backed or considered by Republicans.

Republican leaders expect the measure to pass with Democratic and some Republican support. They most recently had considered tying to the debt limit a restoration of military pension benefits that had been cut, but they abandoned the idea this morning.

Obama had vowed not to negotiate on the debt limit. His strategy succeeded.

The House Wednesday will depart for a two week recess.

UPDATE: The bill, which lifts the ceiling for a year, passed 221-201, with a few Republicans joining nearly all Democrats.

Video || Fireworks in the Briefing Room!

Yeah, it happens.

Ed Henry of Fox News, one of the few White House reporters – actually just about the only one – who makes it his regular duty to awaken snoozing C-Span viewers with some cross examination in the Briefing Room, wondered Thursday whether the White House was sticking to a story on the debt ceiling the Washington Post had proved false.

Well, it was sticking to it.

Two days ago, Obama said:

You have never seen in the history of the United States the debt ceiling or the threat of not raising the debt being used to extort a president or a governing party and trying to force issues that have nothing to do with the budget and nothing to do with the debt.

The Washington Post said presidents had been “extorted” many times by lawmakers attaching extraneous items to debt ceiling increases, including campaign finance measures Democrats led by Sens. Edward Kennedy and Walter Mondale sought in 1973 as Watergate took hold.

Carney maintained that the president was accurate, but note how Carney’s statement differs from the presidents:

There is no question that prior to 2011, there has never been a case where one party with one ideological agenda has threatened to default on the United States obligations for the first time in its –

Now we’re talking about one party with one ideological agenda.

Let’s go to the videotape. Notice how Carney, who is challenged far less than other press secretaries I’ve witnessed, doesn’t deal with it very well in this case.

Expert: Obama Could Seize Power of Purse From Congress

A possible Republican plan to tie defunding Obamacare to an increase in the federal debt ceiling could provoke a Constitutional crisis, with President Obama deciding to borrow money anyway even if Congress fails to raise the borrowing limit.

Republicans are currently seeking to attach language defunding Obamacare to legislation to continue government funding after the fiscal year ends October 1. If that fails, they are expected to try to incorporate Obamacare defund language into legislation raising the debt ceiling later in the month. If the Senate, as expected, fails to pass such legislation, the debt ceiling will not increase, and the government may default on its obligations.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, William Galston, a scholar on governance at the Brookings Institution, said President Obama is probably permitted – and even required – to borrow money himself in order to pay off debts coming due and avoid defaulting, whether Congress approves or not.

Writes Galston:

The precise constitutional issue is the relation between the two terse sentences that define and delimit authority over government borrowing. Article I, section 8, provides (in part) that “The Congress shall have Power . . . To borrow money on the credit of the United States.”

The other key constitutional provision is section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which provides (in part) that “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions . . . shall not be questioned . . . ”

The most plausible reading of the Constitution allows him—in fact requires him—to do what is necessary to avoid defaulting on the public debt, whatever Congress may do or fail to do. But the Constitution does not allow him to treat all existing statutory programs on a par with the public debt—if doing so would require him to issue new debt above and beyond what is needed to pay the principal and interest on existing debt.

Obama appears to agree.

Little noticed in his recent interview with George Stephanopoulos, which ran Sunday on ABC’s This Week, was a suggestion by Obama that Republicans would be violating the Constitution if they put conditions on raising the debt ceiling.

George, here’s the problem.  The– the– if we set– if we continue to set a precedent in which a president, any president, a Republican president– a Democratic president– where the opposing party controls the House of Representatives– if– if that president is in a situation in which each time the United States is called upon to pay its bills– the other party can simply sit there and say, “Well, we’re not gonna put– pay the bills unless you give us what our– what we want,” that changes the constitutional structure of this government entirely.

Galston says the issue would have to go to the Supreme Court, but that Obama at least in the interim could borrow money to pay debt. He could also try to fund spending above the debt limit, Galston writes, but this “would be a stretch.”

Though Galston appears to doubt Obama would try to fund spending on his own, the possibility can’t be ruled out. The president has shown a willingness in many areas to push to boundaries of presidential power as far as possible.

House Republicans Cave on the Debt Ceiling

House Republicans decided today to allow a vote to increase the debt ceiling for three months, insisting that in the interim the Senate must pass a budget, which the Senate hasn’t done in years.

The previous House position was that there would be no debt ceiling increase unless there are corresponding cuts. But all that went out the window as Republicans decided not to confront a president who has just been reelected and is about to preside over his own coronation while their own popularity ratings are in the dumps.

Do these Republicans ever think more than a move or two ahead? The other day Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the government was finished raising taxes. Sure.

At the White House, Press Secretary Jay Carney immediately commenced a victory dance.

We are encouraged that there are signs that Congressional Republicans may back off their insistence on holding our economy hostage to extract drastic cuts in Medicare, education and programs middle class families depend on. Congress must pay its bills and pass a clean debt limit increase without further delay. And as he has said, the President remains committed to further reducing the deficit in a balanced way.

Pay its bills. As if Obama has nothing to do with all the money going out the door. I’m pretty sure he signs the spending bills, but I’ll check the Constitution to see if that’s how it works.

Is Obama Setting the Stage to Seize the Power of the Purse?

The White House may craftily be laying the groundwork for a massive and thoroughly unconstitutional seizure of power from Congress.

Republicans are threatening not to raise the debt ceiling limit unless President Obama agrees to significant cuts in spending. And so, a move is increasingly afoot to have Obama raise it himself. It’s hard to imagine that the growing clamor doesn’t have the approval of the White House. And it’s hard to imagine a more egregious abuse of power.

There are few Constitutional principles more clear than that Congress is in charge of allotting the nation’s cash.

Wikipedia puts the significance of this quite well:

The power of the purse plays a critical role in the relationship of the United States Congress and the President of the United States, and has been the main historic tool by which Congress can limit executive power.

It would be unseemly for the president to snatch this power from Congress, so we are being treated to what is possibly some carefully choreographed performance art in which Obama is portrayed as being dragged kicking and screaming into usurping Congress.

First, on Sunday, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi demanded that Obama raise the debt limit unilaterally: “I would just go do it,” she said.

And now Friday afternoon, in a letter conveniently leaked to Politico, the entire Senate Democratic leadership, led by Harry Reid, told Obama that if Republicans don’t raise the spending limit, he should just go do it:

In the event that Republicans make good on their threat by failing to act, or by moving unilaterally to pass a debt limit extension only as part of an unbalanced or unreasonable legislation, we believe you must be willing to take any lawful steps to ensure that America does not break its promises and trigger a global economic crisis — without congressional approval, if necessary.

Consider just how frightening this sounds: Mr President, do what you must, Congress be damned.

The rationale for this seizure of power is supposed to be the Fourteenth Amendment, which states:

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.

But as David Rivkin Jr. and Lee Casey note in Friday’s Wall Street Journal, failure to raise the debt ceiling doesn’t mean America’s creditors wont get their money. Those obligations remain and must be paid.

Rather, the result would be spending cuts needed to ensure that the Fourteenth Amendment isn’t violated. That’s what Democrats are really concerned about.

The White House is playing its part in this seeming masquerade, opining that the Fourteenth Amendment does not grant the president the power to raise the debt ceiling.

But this White House, with its well established penchant for executive action when confronted with the inconvenience of the Constitution’s balance of powers, will no doubt soon be noting the urgency of avoiding “default” and “financial collapse.”

And with Congressional Democrats offering cover, Obama may well raise the debt limit himself. If he does, he will unleash a Constitutional crisis – and a very grave one indeed that could be an awful augur of power grabs to come.

Americans Think Debt Deal Will Make Economy Worse

By a more than two to one majority, Americans say the debt ceiling deal reached between President Obama and Congress will make the economy worse, according to a new poll by USA Today/Gallup.

The survey is bad political news all around.

Forty one percent approve of Obama’s handling of the negotiations and 49 percent disapprove, numbers which track his overall approval ratings. By contrast, Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s approval ratings on the matter trail their disapproval numbers by 20 points, suggesting Obama’s attempt to position himself as the adult in the room trying to get something done may have had some success.

Though better than the Speaker’s, Obama’s numbers are still not good. And perversely, that his advisers shoved him into the briefing room every other day during the negotiations may in the long run end up causing the public to associate him with a deal they don’t like.

In the survey, 41 percent say the deal will make the economy worse while 17 percent say it will make it better, while a third predict it will have no effect. But a substantial number of those who believe it won’t have an effect think it was the right thing to do, with 39 percent approving of the measure and 46 percent disapproving.

Republicans and conservatives dislike the new law the most, with only about a quarter approving, compared to nearly two thirds of Democrats who back the it.

Obama and Congressional Leaders Finalize a Deal

President Obama and House and Senate leaders of both Parties tonight reached a debt ceiling deal that will lower the projected deficit by about $2.4 trillion, avoiding another debate over the debt limit before Election Day 2012. The sum is about the amount needed to extend the debt ceiling through 2012 without increasing the nation’s… Continue Reading

White House and GOP Appear to Have a Deal

It looks like a deal on the debt ceiling is in hand. Alexander Bolton, ace congressional reporter for The Hill, appears to have the lowdown. A congressional source said Saturday night that Obama and GOP leaders had reached a tentative deal that would raise the debt limit by between $2.4 trillion and $2.8 trillion. It… Continue Reading