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.