Republicans Pushing Debt Ceiling Again

Bruce BartlettI haven’t been writing about the upcoming Debt Ceiling fight, but it hasn’t been far from my mind. The Republicans only pushed it off for a few months to allow them to regroup. They most definitely have not given up on the idea. In fact, their belief that they won the Sequester fight has only made them more aggressive. As I’ve noted many times before, the only way to negotiate with Republicans is from a position of strength. Any show of weakness or openness to compromise is met with ever greater demands.

On a recent radio interview with Sean Hannity, John Boehner said, “Do you want to risk the full faith and credit of the United States government over Obamacare?” Boehner seems to live in a land where it is always “opposite day.” He isn’t risking the full faith and credit of the US government; Obama is by not giving Boehner everything he wants. Mitch McConnell is saying much the same kinds of things.

Bruce Bartlett has an article on the Economix Blog arguing that Obama needs to be prepared to use the 14th Amendment clause, “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.” He provides the history of this clause and it is fascinating.

Basically, after the Civil War, a lot of Democrats wanted to just default on the loans the government had taken out to fund the war. Most of these loans were to average people who would have been hurt. The nation changed the Constitution to stop this from happening. Does this really apply to what is happening now? Bartlett thinks so:

The purpose of the debt provision of the 14th Amendment was to say that national debt was beyond the realm of politics. In the words Jack Balkin, a Yale law professor: “It was stated in broad terms in order to prevent future majorities in Congress from repudiating the federal debt to gain political advantage, to seek political revenge or to try to disavow previous financial obligations because of changed policy priorities.”

Republican threats to hold the debt limit hostage to their agenda today present precisely the sort of political situation contemplated by the authors of the 14th Amendment.

The question is whether Obama will really do it. As I have documented before, Obama caved on his “No Debt Ceiling Negotiation” stance. At this point, we may have no other option.

Afterword

I wrote this back in December:

Now I feel more certain than ever that these negotiations will move into January. The problem is that Obama’s last offer will be the starting point for Boehner next year. So we’ll get something like, “You use chained-CPI, raise the Medicare eligibility age, and raise the top tax rate to 37% for incomes over a million dollars. In return, we won’t fight you on the debt ceiling for a year and half. Deal?” And Obama will take it.

And Boehner will again pull the ball away. And why shouldn’t he? The Republicans can just wait a month and use the debt ceiling to force Social Security to be privatized, raise Medicare eligibility up to 90, and repeal Obamacare. What’s the president going to do? Fight? We’d all be very curious to see what that looks like.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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