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July 27, 2011 3:05 PM House Dems talk up ‘Constitutional Option’

By Steve Benen

When the subject last came up, President Obama didn’t sound at all interested, but the notion of the president resolving the Republican debt-ceiling crisis through the “Constitutional Option” hasn’t disappeared just yet.

This morning, the leadership of the House Democratic Caucus held a press conference, and three party leaders — House Democratic Caucus Chairman James Larson (Conn.), Assistant Democratic Leader John Clyburn (S.C.), and Caucus Vice Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) — actively called on Obama to break new legal ground by using the 14th Amendment.

Here’s Clyburn:

“I would say to the President, that if that’s what lands on his desk — a short term lifting of the ceiling — of the debt ceiling. He should put it on his desk next to an executive order that he will have drawn up. And with the same pen that he vetoes that short term debt ceiling extension, he should sign an executive order invoking the 14th Amendment to this issue. I am convinced that whatever discussions about the legality of that can continue but I believe that something like this will bring calm to the American people, and will bring needed stability to our financial markets.”

Here’s Becerra:

“I think a very clear message should be issued to Speaker John Boehner: Mr. Speaker, House Republicans have failed to govern, failure is not an option for our country, and therefore you leave it to the President to take whatever action is within his power, by his right under the Constitution to move this country forward and make sure Americans do not suffer the consequences of your failure.”

And here’s Larson:

“I know you all have great, grave concern about that because of the ramifications of what it means for the United States for the first time ever in its history to default on its full faith in credit, which is why Jim Clyburn articulated to the applause of our Caucus that the President ought to have his pen right next to it to sign into effect, invoke the 14th Amendment and make sure that debt is taken care of.”

I think it’s safe to say these three didn’t just mention this in passing; the point of the press conference seemed to be (a) to urge Obama to raise the debt ceiling through an executive order; and (b) to let the White House know congressional Democrats won’t mind if he does.

As Larson put it, “What we’re saying is if a small group is really that intent on destroying government and is intent on saying that they don’t believe there is any ramifications for their irresponsibility then we have to have a failsafe mechanism. We believe that fail safe mechanism is the 14th Amendment and the President of the United States.”

I’ve seen nothing from the White House that suggests it’s even a remote possibility, but the Dem caucus leaders’ appeal raises the visibility of the issue a bit, and some news outlets continue to consider the option.

As for why Obama is so reluctant to go down this road, Harvard constitutional law professor Lawrence Tribe’s recent piece appears to summarize the president’s perspective. (thanks to F.B. for the tip)

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.

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  • Area Man on July 27, 2011 3:08 PM:

    "John Clyburn (S.C.)"

    It's James Clyburn.

  • June on July 27, 2011 3:14 PM:

    Everyone weighing in on this should really take a look at Benen's link to Tribe's article. Though I wish it weren't so, I find Tribe's argument persuasive. I would love to hear a solid argument that lays out why Tribe could be wrong, because personally, I think Clyburn et al. are absolutely correct.

  • Schtick on July 27, 2011 3:14 PM:

    First smart thing with backbone I've heard from dems in years.

  • j on July 27, 2011 3:19 PM:

    I just heard that Andrea Mitchell had a teabagger on her program and had to school him that the debt limit increase was to pay for bills already incurred!
    How stupid are these people?

  • T2 on July 27, 2011 3:19 PM:

    as with almost all of the "deal" situations Obama has faced during his short time in office, the tendency to play his cards face up has been a major problem. He telegraphs his plays, giving the other side a leg up on every negotiation. By saying No to the 14th early on, he lost a great deal of power. He could have just said "I'm sure it won't come to that" - instead he just rules it out. Of course if he'd refused to couple this Deficit debate to the Debt Ceiling debate, we wouldn't be in this mess. I hope Obama never goes to Las Vegas....he'll come home penniless.

  • Gridlock on July 27, 2011 3:20 PM:

    I heard Bill Daley on NPR say that all of the white house lawyers think the 14th does NOT give the President this power. Bill Daley implied that if Obama overrides the debt ceiling on his own, without legislation, that it would be an impeachable offense.

    Capcha = redsocu the

  • Stephen Stralka on July 27, 2011 3:20 PM:

    It might come to that. I noticed in his speech on Monday that Obama didn't mention the Constitutional Option one way or the other, so I'm inclined to think it's still on the table. And it's something he doesn't have to talk up a whole lot in advance, since he could do it with a stroke of a pen. My thinking is that he has to wait until the markets really start to freak out, but at any time he can say, "Fuck it. If the Republicans won't let us pay our bills, I'm just going to have to do it anyway."

    They'd impeach him, of course, by that sounds like the ultimate briar patch to me. They want to set up huge media circus with Barack Obama as the star of the show? OK. What are they going to charge him with exactly? Using a somewhat strained reading of the 14th Amendment to save the US economy? They'd be giving him an international platform to explain, in exhaustive detail, how their recklessness ultimately forced his hand. It seems to me that the House Republicans would pretty quickly find that they're the ones on trial, and that the impeachment hearings could segue very neatly into Obama's reelection campaign.

  • sapient on July 27, 2011 3:21 PM:

    June, Jack Balkin has written on the subject here.

  • PhillyCooke on July 27, 2011 3:23 PM:

    The Constitutional option isn't an option. Imagine the situation of the President selling government debt while the Republicans in Congress were appealing to the Supreme Court the legal validity of those sales. What would the interest rate have to be to make you be willing to buy debt that the Supreme Court might say is not legally binding? We'd trash our credit rating even if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the President's actions

  • SadOldVet on July 27, 2011 3:25 PM:

    As for why Obama is so reluctant to go down this road...

    First and foremost, Obama does not have the balls to do this even to save our economy from the repuke suicide squads.

    Second, The Obomination seems to be more worried about his reelection than the economy of our country and is afraid using the 14th would provide a campaign slogan for the repukes.

    I did not support Obama's election because I thought he was an angry black man, but I wish that he was!

  • Perspecticus on July 27, 2011 3:26 PM:

    As I noted in a thread below, the only option that sems to be getting no consideration is passing a clean, long term debt limit increase. Why this is not part of every converation regarding the debt limit at this stage is a complete mystery.

  • c u n d gulag on July 27, 2011 3:26 PM:

    Well, certainly Tribe knows a whole hell of a lot more about this than I do, but maybe it can serve as a trial balloon that can be kept up in the air for leverage in the coming days?

    And it doesn't mean that Obama can't do it, make the claim that he was buying the nation time in an emergency, and taking the ramifications, which would certainly include law suits, and probably impeachment - so I doubt he'll go that route.

    Obviously, I'm no legal scholar. But I'd like to hear from some of the commenters here who are more knowledgable than I am.

  • MBunge on July 27, 2011 3:28 PM:

    "By saying No to the 14th early on, he lost a great deal of power."


    And here's another guy who thinks he's a better politician than the black guy with the funny name who got himself elected President of the United States. If Obama embraced or talked up the 14th, not only would he be encouraging GOP irresponsibility on the debt limit but he would define the debate as being about what HE was going to do, not what Republicans are doing.

    Mike

  • EdgewaterJoe on July 27, 2011 3:28 PM:

    Forget the 14th Amendment: Jay Carney slammed it shut during the press briefing.

    Again, I ask: who will benefit financially from an economic meltdown - and who among the Teabaggers are getting their money from those forces? Somebody has to know this, and word needs to get out ASAP ...

  • Elie on July 27, 2011 3:28 PM:


    Its Congressional responsibility, not the executive (Obama's), to raise the debt ceiling. Their hands are all over this and the responsibility is theirs. Bill Daley is absolutely right on and the President will wait until that finally sinks in for the republicans. They will vote for a clean debt ceiling raise at the 11th hour (I credit a commenter in the previous post with this insight so give him/her credit for the point). I think that person is correct.

  • JM917 on July 27, 2011 3:31 PM:

    Up to now I've defended Obama as a shrewd tactician playing rope-a-dope to the GOP's fools and fanatics, but that's always rested on the expectation that when the chips are down and default and/or market crash are about to happen he'll pull out the Constitution and order the debt ceiling disregarded on national-security grounds. And I continue to think this is his (and our) winning strategy, as Stephen Stralka writes.

    If, in fact, he refuses to strike down this distructive nonsense and accepts anything resembling the Boehner bill, then I will concede that all his critics on the left were correct, and I will convert into an absolutely flaming-at-the-mouth "Dump Obama Now" Dem. Only question: who'll be the Gene McCarthy or Bobby Kennedy to take up the fight?

    Like I said, though, I still have hope... Stand strong, Mr. President!

  • catclub on July 27, 2011 3:32 PM:

    I was unconvinced by Tribe's column. Part of it was reductio ad absurdum - if Obama can issue bonds then he can also mint more money or raise taxes on his own.

    Second, I think that 'recent law supercedes older law' means that debts incurred which imply obligations beyond the debt ceiling, and passed after the previous debt ceiling vote (Feb 2010) -- like the march Continuing resolution -- supercede the debt ceiling. Obama can say that congress ordered me to pay these bills and I will pay them. I think no 14th amendment motivation is needed.

    I did like the idea of continuing to pay bills and letting the Federal Reserve either bounce the check -- or more likely -- NOT. Overdraft protection just like at your local bank - but whom do they charge the overdraft fee?

  • Gridlock on July 27, 2011 3:34 PM:

    Elie, I'm inclined to think there will be an 11th hour debt ceiling raise as well, but I think the only one that can pass is a very, very short extension. 2 weeks or so.

    Captcha: msentse FTP

  • Memekiller on July 27, 2011 3:35 PM:

    If the GOP insists on a default, what are the options then? I'm not even clear what the ransom is that needs to be paid to avoid a default. The only point of contention left to raise the debt ceiling is raising the debt ceiling. The GOP will only raise it if they can keep the threat of not raising it, whereas the Dems want it raised for real.

    So, the final sticking point is whether or not to raise the debt ceiling. If we agree to not raise it to give them more time to extricate more demands - the only remaining one being whether to raise the debt ceiling - then they'll raise it. If we don't agree not to raise it, they'll refuse.

    Sounds to me like they want a default crisis, and we have to give it to them if we want them to stop putting our nation on the brink.

  • Danp on July 27, 2011 3:37 PM:

    Obama should make it very clear that he does not consider the 14th ammendment a legal option. Congress has obligations. If Congress wants to force default, well, we elected them. We did not elect a dictator. It's time for Boehner and McConnell to stop pretending they are two of the "cool kids", and it's time for the freshmen to stop pretending this is about jobs and fiscal responsibility. Maybe more states will start processes to recall these phonies. And maybe voters will start to pay more attention. Until the, unfortunately, we have the government we paid for.

  • memekiller on July 27, 2011 3:43 PM:

    Do I have this right? The GOP will only make it stop if we let them continue? Is this the final demand?

  • Gridlock on July 27, 2011 3:46 PM:

    memekiller,

    That's half right. They are also demanding some spending cuts now so that they can demand more spending cuts later.

    I think the plan is to continue this in six month increments until the government is no longer spending ANY money. Then they can say 'see, we starved the beast'.

    Captcha= numbered) dinica

  • Elie on July 27, 2011 3:50 PM:

    Gridlock:

    thanks for your comment but I am not getting why the Congress, which is the source for the debt ceiling increase, could only pass a two week ceiling raise. If They could do the longer term raise, why could they only pass a two week raise?

  • Elie on July 27, 2011 3:54 PM:

    Danp:

    I agree that this is a Congressional responsibility and I think Obama has said over and over that he believes using the 14th is illegal. Daley (his chief of staff), was the most direct about it today, saying that if used would get the President impeached. Obama I think should put it right onto where it belongs -- the Congress, just as you and several others have opined.

  • JM917 on July 27, 2011 3:55 PM:

    @ catclub, Danp:

    When I say that Obama should invoke the Constitution to kill the debt ceiling, I don't mean that he has to necessarily invoke the 14th Amendment. Maybe the specifics of the 14th, Sect. 4 are too narrowly tied to the post-Civil War situation to be valid in this context. But in a dire emergency a president can declare that his oath of office and his constititional duty to safeguard national security and the people's welfare leave him no other duty than to prevent a disaster of the magnitude that default (and Congress's failure to agree on a remedy) would present.

    The 14th Amendment, in other words, is certainly not the only part of the Constitition that could justify action.

    Sure, he'd risk impeachment, but that would be a political matter, and there's no way that the Senate as presently constituted would muster a 2/3 vote to convict him. And I doubt whether even today's Supreme Court (which is strongly committed to upholding presidential authority to act in emergency situations) would rule that the Constitition is a suicide pact.

    The biggest question would be how markets would react. But how would markets react to a default?

  • Shelly on July 27, 2011 3:55 PM:

    Okay, President Obama can't invoke the 14th. Apparently the whole shebang is on Congress. So the Dems and reasonable Reps in Congress should invoke the 14th.

  • Gridlock on July 27, 2011 3:55 PM:

    Because the Republican'ts don't want a longer term raise. They want something that will require another look right before the election. A short term solution (2 weeks) gives them more time to argue about the spending cuts, which is another condition the GOPpers 'must' have.

    Captcha = nitembl corner - where the Repugs put the country

  • memekiller on July 27, 2011 3:56 PM:

    So the GOP plan is for less deficit reduction, but more of it now to cause the most damage to the economy, thus hurting Obama's re-election prospects, in theory. And they get to keep the hostage, but promise to kill him in 6 months instead of right away.

    Getting less cuts, but more right away, is such a matter of principle to the Tea Party, they're willing to crash our economy until they get fewer cuts sooner.

  • rob on July 27, 2011 4:00 PM:

    "According to economist Robert McTeer, former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, there is nothing wrong with printing money during a recession, and quantitative easing is different from traditional monetary policy "only in its magnitude and pre-announcement of amount and timing".
    Forbes. http://blogs.forbes.com/beltway/2010/12/23/theres-nothing-wrong-with-the-fed-printing-money/.

    ISSUING CURRENCY IS NOT THE SAME AS ISSUING DEBT. WHY CAN'T THE TREASURY PAPER ITS WAY OUT OF DEFAULT?

  • Elie on July 27, 2011 4:03 PM:

    JM917

    Invoking any part of the not previously accepted approach to raising the debt limit is fraught for Obama and this country. I think that it would be an extremely confusing outcome on top of an already horrible situation. The markets, our international partnerships would be placed in extreme uncertainty. It would, in fact, initiate a civil war as the repubs sued the executive branch for usurping their prerogatives. After that, they would use that as an excuse to complete the coup, completely abrogating the current government structure altogether. It would make this period of uncertainty look like a cake walk.

    I donot believe that people understand how extreme such a move would be and that is why Obama is not going to do it. We have a fire. Pouring gasoline on it would not be wise.

    BTW, captcha sucks. Why do you need this for every comment, Steve?

  • Trollop on July 27, 2011 4:05 PM:

    Just do it! Pull a Nike.. If the concern is so great and the situation so dire, why would you not do this for the country?

    PS. Today would be better than tomorrow or next week dude.

  • Shelly on July 27, 2011 4:05 PM:

    Gridlock, nobody is impressed with your captchas.

  • Sapient on July 27, 2011 4:06 PM:

    Rob, the Fed would apparently not be willing to do that.

  • June on July 27, 2011 4:06 PM:

    @Sapient -- Many thanks for the link to Balkin's well-thought-out argument for Pres. Obama invoking the 14th Amendment. Truthfully, though, it left me feeling as I did after Obama's Monday night's speech - less re-assured.

    The part that's less re-assuring is that Balkin takes a huge leap of faith that Tea Party Republicans will "see the light" as to the wisdom of Obama invoking the 14th once they behold the gates of economic Armageddon upon us, and will vote to retroactively authorize his raising of the debt ceiling.

    "In this extreme case, the President acts because no one else will act, but in so acting he puts himself at the pleasure and mercy of Congress.

    He says, in effect: "This is what I have done to save the country. If you approve of it, then it is legal. If you do not approve, you may impeach and convict me. But now you must choose what to do. The responsibility is yours.""

    Unfortunately, words I've come to live by are, Republicans NEVER TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR ANYTHING, and Republicans are NEVER THINK TWICE ABOUT DOING INSANE THINGS - especially when backed into a corner. Obama raising the debt ceiling on his own would be a gift to these hardcore nimcompoops who are praying for a reason to take him out politically through impeachment. And Fox News, MTP, and the rest of the media would gladly lend a hand -- to the Republicans.

    Obama may still be able to pull a rabbit out of the hat, though.

  • memekiller on July 27, 2011 4:10 PM:

    Did you guys know the Congress could raise the debt ceiling today, just as they've done 89 times before, with a single vote?

    Just saying.

  • Elie on July 27, 2011 4:14 PM:

    memekiller:

    Exactly. At any time. Always could.

    They are trying to make Obama and the administration committ an unforced error that they can exploit. As painful and raggedy as it is, he has to let them hold this live grenade, pin pulled and see if they either put the pin back in or committ to taking responsibility for the explosion. He cannot let them make him the vehicle.

  • Stetson Kennedy on July 27, 2011 4:36 PM:

    Maybe the specifics of the 14th, Sect. 4 are too narrowly tied to the post-Civil War situation to be valid in this context.

    While we won't truly know until the SCOTUS were to rule on its validity, but most legal analysis I have read indicates that Article 14, Sec 4 is as valid today as it was 150 years ago. Civil War debt was almost certainly the impetus for the ammendment, but there is nothing in it that limits its scope to CW debt.

    While I haven't seen Jay Carney's nor Richard Daley's comments on invoking the 14th, Obama's previous statements were far from unequivocal. I am holding out hope that he has this in his back pocket.

    Invoke the 14th, then let the GOP know that he will veto ANY legislation extending the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans. Then ask House Dems to draw up legislation extending the Bush tax cuts for everyone else. It's the GOP's choice - raise taxes for the wealthiest Americans, or raise them for everyone.

  • Chris on July 27, 2011 4:36 PM:

    I read Tribe's piece, but a Yale constitutional law professor, Jack Balkin, makes the argument that the President has emergency powers to act to save the country.

    Essentially this professor says that there are two conflicting laws in place...the budget passed last April which appropriates money to be spent and the debt-ceiling that would prevent him from spending the money that was appropriated. Assuming Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling, President Obama could not honor both laws simultaneously. So, consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment, he could honor the appropriations legislation by instructing the treasury secretary to issue more debt to conform with the budget passed earlier this year.

    http://www.mediaite.com/tv/worst-case-scenario-maddow-explores-if-obama-can-legally-override-congress-on-debt-debate/

  • SaintZak on July 27, 2011 4:42 PM:

    "Again, I ask: who will benefit financially from an economic meltdown - and who among the Teabaggers are getting their money from those forces? Somebody has to know this, and word needs to get out ASAP"

    Well, we know Eric Cantor has investments that will do well in the event of a default. I've been saying for a long time that there is big moneyed interests that stand to profit from this calamity.The tea baggers are idiots on a leash, nothing more. Find out who exactly is holding that leash and this situation will make a lot more sense.

  • tokorode on July 27, 2011 4:46 PM:

    are you kidding me? The Teatards would absolutely LOVE for Obama to attempt this, thereby confirming the paranoid Beckian claptrap of the illegitimate usurper grabbing authoritarian power. The fact that it actually saves the economy is a bonus.

  • Sparko on July 27, 2011 4:48 PM:

    Beyond the 14th Amendment, the president actually has the enumerated obligation to enforce the Budget Act of FY 2011 through executive order. The president could have vetoed the Budget Act if he saw fit, but having signed it, the Constitution requires that he execute the will of the last Congress. This is an eeasily defensible course of actions when one looks at the enumerated powers of each branch. Lincoln even used the executive order authority to pay for troops he called up from state militias. The parallel here is that we are at war. So, if he felt he needed a further exepedient, he could declare a state of emergency to protect deployed troops and issue an immediate order to raise the debt limit to its obligated ceiling.

  • jlt on July 27, 2011 4:49 PM:

    There needs to be a ground swell of support for this and the President needs to stay out until it is clear the Congressional repubs are totally incompetent and are hell bent to screw the country to make it appear that it is the Presidents fault...
    He is down but the repub-baggers are in the toilet...Then he can veto and assert the 14th. with the same pens!
    Truman did it..The lawyers are coming around because of the damage already done to the USA..Markets down 2% ---400points in 3 sessions,,threats of downgrade and the repub Neros are fiddling in front of the World!

  • Chris on July 27, 2011 5:00 PM:

    NYTimes: "In recent weeks, law professors have been trying to puzzle out the meaning and relevance of the [Fourteenth Amendment]. Some have joined Mr. Clinton in saying it allows Mr. Obama to ignore the debt ceiling. Others say it applies only to Congress and only to outright default on existing debts. Still others say the president may do what he wants in an emergency, with or without the authority of the 14th Amendment."

    The article goes on---

    "Mr. Obama's statement largely dismissing the possibility of invoking the provision may have had a strategic element to it. A deficit reduction deal would seem to be more likely, after all, if both sides thought there was no alternative but economic chaos...."

    The article quotes Harvard professor Tribe and Yale professor Balkin as agreeing that, if the President were to invoke the Fourteenth Amendment, a dispute would probably not make it into the courts.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/25/us/politics/25legal.html

  • JM917 on July 27, 2011 5:09 PM:

    If Obama does invoke the Constition (specifically the 14th and/or more widely) to avert default, he could word his executive order to be effective through (say) March 2013 OR until Congress presents him with an acceptable bill that provides a long-term solution to the nation's deficit problem AND that ratifies the raising of the debt ceiling through March 2013 (i.e., when a newly inaugurated president and a new Congress are in place).

    That way he makes it clear that he is acting only in an emergency and in such a way that preserves Congress's ultimate authority to tax and spend, and that he is thereby removing any temptation by the present Congress to continue playing with fire re: threats to precipitate default and national ruin.

    Why wouldn't that assure him of the support of everyone except the Tea Party crazies and cynical GOP politicians?
    So let Congress continue to haggle and bicker over spending--that could go on until we have new elections in 2012 and can settle things like budgets and the fate of the Bush tax cuts in a democratic manner.

    And let the Republican House try to impeach him--he could turn that spectacle into a root-and-branch attack on the whole Tea Party madness and their sinister behind-the-scenes backers.

    As for S&P, Moodys, etc. possibly downgrading the US credit rating: sure, let them threaten to cut the rating. Maybe that's the Sword of Damocles that Congress would need to come up with an interim (i.e., through 2013) budget cuts that the next Congress could, if necessary, reverse.

    So Obama wouldn't be precipitating a civil war--he'd simply be preserving the civil peace until we get to the next election.

    Better that then the Armageddon of an entirely preventable national default.

    Obama would be following in the footsteps of Jefferson (re: Louisiana Purchase), Jackson (smacking down Calhoun's Nullifiers), Lincoln (Fort Sumter and the threat of Maryland's secession), and FDR (ordering the 1933 bank holiday and taking the US off the gold standard).

    If push comes to shove, he has to do this--or fail as ignominiously as Buchanan in the face of secession.

  • RHytonen on July 27, 2011 5:13 PM:

    Bottom line, The President should simply have said

    -From the beginning-

    "I will VETO anything but a simple, one sentence increase in the debt ceiling."

    NO Explanations, NO Negotiations, NO Conditions."

    How's this?
    I WILL VOTE FOR NO PRESIDENTIAL (or other office) CANDIDATE, WHO WOULD NOT HAVE DONE IT THAT WAY.

    Sanders/Warren in 2012.

  • bardgal on July 27, 2011 5:35 PM:

    EVERYONE, especially the Dems, need to STOP saying the POTUS needs to use the 14th.

    He CANNOT. Do they want him impeached as bad as the teaspoons do?

    READ THE CONSTITUTION. The legal wording is CLEAR: CONGRESS (NOT POTUS) SHALL (MANDATORY) ENFORCE (America to pay her debt.)

    This is CONGRESS' LEGAL OBLIGATION. If we had any semblance of MEDIA/JOURNALISM in this country, or hell, anywhere on the planet at this point, since they're all going to shitland with us if there's a default - everyone would understand this.

    Congress cannot, and especially the House Dems, should NOT even be saying shit like this!

    It's THEIR JOB, and THEY NEED TO FRAKKIN DO IT.

    The GOP think they have checkmate in their sites:

    1 - the US defaults and everyone blames Obama for not using the 14th - which he legally can't use, and they Impeach him for allowing the US debt to get downgraded - even though it was THEIR SORRY ASSES THAT CAUSED IT.

    2 - Obama uses the 14th, and they Impeach him.

    If we had ANY INTELLIGENT PRESS.... they would be SCREAMING how this is CONGRESS' LEGAL OBLIGATION. They passed the budget - THEY MUST PAY FOR IT.

  • Elie on July 27, 2011 6:32 PM:


    Whatever Obama ultimately does, he should not committ to anything right now. At the minimum,it is clear that this is first a Congressional responsibility and he should let them try to iron it out until "the last minute". It may cause other players to act upon the Republicans or whatever. Politically it helps seal the reality that its the Republican led Congress that is screwing this up and that they hold responsibility for this. The longer this goes, the deeper that impression is sealed in.

    Frankly, I know of no face saving way for the Republicans to exit this. That train left the station long ago and woe to the so called leaders that let this get so far out of hand. They have jumped the shark big time and there is nothing but fail ahead for them no matter what ultimately happens.

  • NealB on July 27, 2011 6:41 PM:

    Citation of Tribe as a reliable source on this matter is a problem when the crux of his argument is this:

    "This risk, in turn, would result in a steep increase in interest rates because investors would lose confidence..."

    Tribe, like the rich in general, have been citing the "confidence fairy" over and over again for the past two years. Despite the global economic recession, there has been, in fact, no factual evidence of 'loss of confidence' in the US debt. To the contrary, investors retain confidence.

    Obama probably will do the wrong thing in this, as he has in most else since he took office, despite the opportunities he was presented to be a great president simply by doing the logical thing. Citing a pedant, like Tribe, as an honest opinion, makes you look milque-toast, Steve. I know it's your stock-in-trade, and presumably has kept you in good stead as a middle-of-the-road observer. But don't think you're fooling me when you cite Tribe and his lame, self-serving reference to confidence fairies.

  • MCA on July 27, 2011 7:14 PM:

    I like the use of "the Republican debt crisis." We should have been calling it that all along, as it implies that this is purely a Congress problem, not an Executive problem, and that it's caused solely by the party actually causing it.

  • nk007 on July 27, 2011 7:53 PM:

    @T2

    It's people like you who always find a way to blame PRESIDENT Obama for everything that continually amaze me. The way you do that is by lying. First, PRESIDENT Obama called for a clean bill raising the debt ceiling as far back as last December during the lame duck session. It was Harry Reid and others who failed to act. When the Republicans took over the House, he still insisted on a clean bill raising the debt ceiling. Guess what, a vote was taken and the a bill to raise the debt ceiling was voted down by the Republicans in in the House who insisted on linking the debt ceiling to cutting deficits. Second Obama using a threat of the 14th Amendment would be an empty threat because, as you saw with Tribe's piece, there would be lawyers tearing apart his threat. On top of that, you can bet political attacks that he is acting as dictator, usurping congressional powers would be endlessly lopped by the media, 24-7. I don't know about you, but I sure would love to play poker with you if you openly show me your cards.

    Why is it that even learned people forget that we are under a system of divided powers. It's congress' responsibility to raise the debt ceiling. The President cannot unilaterally raise the debt ceiling. The 14th Amendment's Section 4 does not invalidate Article 1 Section 8.

  • nk007 on July 27, 2011 8:19 PM:

    This place is filled with people suffering from OBD. Some of the comments attacking the President are truly bizarre! Some one even had the audacity to denigrate Professor Tribe, one of the leading Constitutional Scholars, without demonstrating any understanding of the Constitution.

    Please, people, the U.S. is a democracy! The Constitution provides for three coequal branches of government. The President cannot act as a dictator. FDR tried to pack the Supreme Court, after many of his early New Deal programs were struck down by the Court, and he failed miserably. A president who is always threatening Congress will never get anything accomplished. IF IT WEREN'T FOR COMPROMISES, THE UNITED STATES WOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN FOUNDED. The alternative to finding some common ground is a civil war. Sometimes I think both the left and the right would prefer a civil war over compromises where neither side gets 100% of what they want.

  • dcshungu on July 27, 2011 8:24 PM:

    Genug ist genug! At this point, the POTUS has to draft and get ready an executive order to increase the debt limit to 2013 if August 2 comes around and the jokeying in Washington is still going on. What are the consequences? He will be impeached by the mad House. But, with the Dems controlling the Senate, he'll survive. And then...just like after Clinton got impeached, watch Obama's approval rating go through the roof, where it'll stay until well after his second term, which he will win easily, dragging in with him large Dem majorities in both houses of congress...and then we will live happily ever after.

    That is not only a great scenario, it is the likely scenario if the POTUS unilaterally increases the debt ceiling. So, Mr. President, please get that executive ready!!

  • Dweb on July 27, 2011 8:26 PM:

    .....and it is Cong. JOHN Larson....

  • AG on July 27, 2011 9:06 PM:

    Steve, I think the 14th Amendment option is really overplaying the hand. After all, preventing a debt default only requires $30 billion for next month. All the Fed has to do is sell that many T-bills on its balance sheet and send a check to the treasury. Current existing law already allows this, so why should the President his neck on the line by turning a debt ceiling crisis into a constitutional crisis?

  • bob h on July 28, 2011 6:35 AM:

    The Republicans seem to have forgotten that we are at war. That anyone would seek to hobble the nation at a time of war, very expensive war, is beyond belief, and would seem to most people grounds for extraordinary action. This should factor into whatever decision is made.

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