As the political sideshow continues in Washington, and the country careens toward the cliff and a disaster of historic proportions on August 2nd, it’s worth looking at Section 4 of the 14th amendment––possibly the last hope of saving the country from financial suicide brought about by the inmates now controlling the asylum.
Section 4 reads:
“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payments of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”
A majority of constitutional scholars have argued that the President does have some reserve power in the case of an absolute emergency. Most believe Congress’s current refusal to raise the debt ceiling falls within those parameters. Scholars point directly to the case that the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment were concerned about: preventing Southern members of Congress from canceling the debt the Union had accrued during the war and assuming the Southern debt.
In effect, Republican members of the House do not want to pay the debt incurred by previous Congresses unless they get specific cuts in domestic spending, particularly in programs Democrats hold dear.
The framers intent seems clear. Members of Congress cannot hold the full faith and credit of the U.S. government hostage to achieve other political ends, as was attempted by Southern members of Congress after the Civil War.
What we have in Washington today is an invented Constitutional crisis designed to achieve the policy goals of one particular party. The President should step up to the plate and declare that he is raising the debt ceiling and leave it to the courts to decide if he overstepped his authority.
Because even if the two parties and the President arrive at an agreement and avert a meltdown on Tuesday, there is little doubt that this threat will be used again and again to extract concessions.
The time to end this sideshow is now.