That’s right. If we get to the debt limit, it should be totally ignored.
What the President should do
Here is an explanation of what the President should do and why he should do it if we go over the debt limit.
Please understand that I am not writing this in support of one party or another. This has nothing to do with whether or not I think the Affordable Care Act is a good idea. I am also not advocating that the President “stick to his guns.” Nor am I encouraging either side to “not negotiate.” Nor am I making a statement here on whether or not US public debt is too big.
I am just making a simple statement about The US Constitution vs. The Congressional Debt Limit.
It is pretty simple
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution 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.”
So it really doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that. The 14th Amendment undoubtedly supersedes the Congressional Debt Limit, which is a law but is not in The Constitution.
All other complications aside
This debt limit fight is quite complicated. You have a Congress that authorized spending but now is fighting over whether to pay for it. You have Republicans arguing among themselves. You have a huge healthcare law that many believe is inherently unconstitutional. Boehner has been backed into a position where he has to look tough — so has the President.
So I get it. This is a very complex situation. But whether we should default if we go past the debt limit is not complicated.
Obama doesn’t need to make a platinum coin. We don’t need to do anything tricky.
The President should simply instruct Treasury to continue to auction US public debt. If Congress doesn’t like it, they can impeach the President and the Senate can put him on trial, which would go nowhere. The benefit of such proceedings might be a clear precedent being set that the 14th Amendment trumps the debt limit.
If I were the President, I would further make it clear to the American People and the world ahead of time that this is my plan. This would certainly help calm financial markets if we go up to the 11th hour, which Congress now does on a routine basis.
But the 14th Amendment was about the Civil War…
A supposed constitutional expert might retort that the 14th Amendment was written after the Civil War to ensure the states would not reignite their arguing about which states should and should not pay for the cost of the Civil War.
My response to this: So….
The basic point is to stop one state from trying to avoid paying federal debt by saying it is another state’s fault. In a way, with states so politically polarized right now, this is essentially the same fundamental issue at hand today. The 14th Amendment was to ensure that all the states knew – once and for all – that they would be in it together.