Most of you have probably forgotten all that went on in 2011 when the right-wingers in Congress pushed the country to the brink concerning raising the debt ceiling versus the country defaulting on its obligations. That dilemma was resolved at zero hour by enacting the automatic spending cuts (including a huge chunk of defense) to take place in 2013.
Now, as we face the so called “financial cliff” many right wingers are threating to use the debt ceiling as leverage to get the President to cave on raising the tax rates for the top 2% and protecting social security, Medicare, and other social safety net expenditures. This brought me to remember something that was in the background in the 2011 go-around: The President simply bypassing congress and increasing the debt ceiling by invoking the 14th Amendment. Here is an excerpt from a 2011 article addressing the subject:
Critics of the debt limit cite the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, 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." (Emphasis ours)
Of course, the Fourteenth Amendment is open to wide, and varying, interpretation and debate. The most basic question here is, does a limit on debt "question" the "validity" of the debt?
Legal scholar Garrett Epps, writing in The Atlantic in April, said that a case could easily made for simply ignoring the congressionally mandated debt limit.
"This provision makes clear that both the monies our nation owes to bondholders, and the sums promised in legislation to those receiving pensions set by law from the federal government, must be paid regardless of the political whims of the current congressional majority," Epps wrote.
In essence, Epps argues that Obama should stand before Congress and say, Tough luck--the Constitution says we can't default. Epps argued that in the event that Congress does not act, Obama should (and could) instruct the Treasury Department to issue "binding debt instruments on the world market sufficient to cover all the current obligations of the United States government, even in default of Congressional action to meet those obligations."
This time around Obama does not have to worry about a second term or low approval ratings. He was reelected in a landslide and is now sporting very high approval ratings. Thus, I believe that if the “hair on fire” nuts in the congress want to threaten Obama with a debt ceiling default, he should invoke the 14th Amendment and tell them to go to hell. Sure they will try to impeach him, but they will never get the votes needed and the proceedings would go on for a long time. But what does Obama care…he’s in for the duration now. Interesting, no?