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Barack Obama has sometimes been fond of branding his Republican foes “hostage-takers,” but officials in his administration have found a new hostage in their negotiations over raising the debt ceiling: the U.S. Constitution. The president’s advisers and several “unbiased” media outlets are suggesting if Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling, Barack Obama can force the nation to continue borrowing money. The Founding Fathers required all expenditures originate in the House of Representatives, but Obama officials are wrapping his actions in the 14th Amendment. For the first time in living memory, the president is threatening to commit an impeachable offense if he does not get his way.

CBS News has reported the debt ceiling impasse leaves “the option of a congressional end-run by President Obama a possibility.” Reporter Whit Johnson said, “The stalemate in Washington has some asking if President Obama could simply bypass Congress and order the Treasury to keep borrowing.” Obama or his spokesman Jay Carney has been asked twice about the possibility and, despite an incredibly misleading headline from the Associated Press, neither rejected the possibility. (Carney merely said, “I don’t think that I want to get into speculation about what might happen if something does or doesn’t happen”; Obama replied, “I don’t think we should even get to the constitutional issue.”) MSNBC’s Powerwall dared the president to carry it out, claiming it would be smart politically.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who has never shown much regard for financial laws, claims the president has this power under the Fourteenth Amendment. The fourth clause 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.

Geither made his comments at a “Playbook Breakfast” hosted by the online publication Politico, which has previously urged Obama to rule by decree. In December, John F. Harris and James Hohmann wrote, “Republican gains in Congress make it essential for him to use new avenues of power.”

Geithner is not alone in his inversion of the Constitution. Economist Bruce Bartlett intoned, “Given that the Supreme Court in recent years has been unusually deferential to executive prerogatives – I feel certain President Obama would be on firm constitutional ground should he challenge the debt limit in order to prevent a debt default.” What began as too-clever-by-half musings on left-leaning websites quickly filtered into the administration’s talking points.

The White House and Congress have come to a standstill as Obama refuses to make meaningful cuts in his bloated budget. The last time this came to a head, Obama promised $38 billion in budget cuts as a precondition for raising the debt ceiling but delivered miniscule reductions, nearly all of which could be offset by Obama’s unilateral war in Libya.

The president demands GOP leaders bring “no ultimatums” to this round of negotiations; he simultaneously refuses to take tax hikes off the table. He hopes to get Republican support for raising taxes before the 2012 elections, or to blame their intransigence for cutting off Social Security checks and veterans pensions – particularly to the elderly in rural areas.

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