Pro Logica

July 15, 2011

Debt Ceiling Negotiations

Much of Congress’ time in 2011 as been spent in consideration of the U.S. debt; it is at an all-time high. A good part of the discussion concerns the debt ceiling provision–a law passed by Congress and also amended many times as the debt has continued to increase. While I am irked by some of the demands of our representatives, especially those showing some lack of common sense or some ignorance about government operations affecting the common welfare of the citizens of the U.S., I am concerned about the process wherein the Republican Party negotiates directly with the POTUS on fabricating an acceptable bill to be passed.

First of all, I have no objection to lawmakers talking with executive branch officers about upcoming legislation; this action, one would hope, should lead to better laws. The situation is peculiar since the Republican Party lawmakers are stubbornly unwilling to find an acceptable compromise with its Democratic Party lawmakers and has found that the POTUS is more amenable to their position. I really don’t know what the Republican Party can reasonably expect to gain by this direct negotiation. One, they cannot have the POTUS sign any kind of document nor should the POTUS sign anything; meaning he does not commit himself to signing any kind of a bill into law. Two, they would have to get any agreement into a bill passed by the House. Three, they would need the Senate’s concurrence on the bill so it could be presented to the POTUS for his signature. Fourth, they would need a two-thirds majority to override a veto. Finally, come time to pay bills, the POTUS would have contradictory Congressional laws to enforce, i.e., he either, borrows enough to pay for those costs incurred by enforcing certain laws and, thus, not enforce the debt limit, or he does not borrow and, thus, not enforce certain laws of his choosing which were duly passed by Congress.

Maybe Mr. Obama sees some re-election possibilities by entering into talks with the Republican Party members of the House but as POTUS he should tell those Republican Party members of the House to do their Constitutional job and come up with a bill that he can accept or else have the requisite two/thirds majority vote to over ride his veto and to do so in a timely manner, otherwise he will be forced to choose those law or laws which he will enforce.  Certainly, one option is for the POTUS is to disregard the debt ceiling law and borrow the necessary money while the other option would be to issue IOU’s instead of valid claims against the treasury.  Before choosing one of these extreme options, the POTUS probably would first use up money not spent within those allocations where the full allocation was not deemed necessary.  Of course, Congress could attempt to have a bill passed specifying the manner in which the default should proceed.  No such law currently exists.  To be totally effective,  when telling Congress to do their job, he should openly tell the citizens of the U. S. what he will do if Congress does not do its job.  As for borrowing above the debt ceiling, a good case can be made on the basis of these facts: 1)  Government branches are independent, 2)  the POTUS has taken an oath to uphold the Constitution, 3)  the Constitution prioritises itself over Congressional laws, and 4)  the Constitution states it debts are valid.

As of July 12, 2011, it appears that there will be no agreements to increase the U.S. Government’s debt ceiling so the Republican Senate Minority Leader, Senator McConnell, came up with a proposal designed to exonerate all Republican Congressmen from  having to vote for an increased debt limit while increasing the debt limit within certain bounds.  This proposal purports to put the responsibility on the POTUS for actually raising the debt ceiling but its real effect would be to allow the POTUS to berate Congress for not doing its job.


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