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Conservatives Richard Falknor on 27 Dec 2012 09:17 pm

The Coming Debt-Ceiling Battle:Will Congress Reclaim Its Powers?

How much of our bi-partisan debt will she have to pay?

Yesterday senior Republican senator Chuck Grassley responded to reporters  Jim Meyers and Kathleen Walter (Newsmax) on raising taxes–

“Considering that the president refuses to back down on raising taxes on America’s highest-income earners, Grassley was asked, what other options do Republicans have?
‘If we do go over the cliff then the focus next year’s going to be on raising the debt ceiling and we’ve got a great deal of leverage on the president on raising the debt ceiling because we don’t have to raise it unless we’re going to get some reduction in expenditures.’” (Highlighting Forum’s.)

Said Andrew McCarthy last week –

“Because Republicans have not caved again on the ceiling as Obama was demanding, they have leverage: The Treasury Department, within a few weeks, will be out of accounting tricks to stave off a shut-down. There will be enough tax money streaming into the till to make bond payments, so — despite media scaremongering to the contrary — our full faith and credit will remain intact. So let Obama figure out how to run Leviathan on $2.4 trillion — which is over half a trillion more than the federal government was spending at the end of the Clinton years that Democrats portray as the golden era of fiscal responsibility.” (Highlighting Forum’s.)

Debt-Ceiling Basics

During the last confrontation (click here) between the Congressional GOP and the president over the debt ceiling, constitutional experts David B. Rivkin, Jr. and Lee Casey in May 2011 reminded us all (WSJ) of these basics –

  • “The Constitution’s 14th Amendment was adopted shortly after the Civil War. In part, its purpose was to ensure that the statutory citizenship and legal rights granted to the newly freed slaves were not denied by the states, or repealed by a later Congress once the Southern states were fully represented again.”
  • “But that wasn’t the only concern. Vast federal debts had been incurred to fight that war, and Congress also acted to ensure that these obligations could not be disavowed in the future. Thus, in addition to guaranteeing rights to citizenship, due process of law, and equal protection, the 14th Amendment forbids dishonoring ‘[t]he validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law.’”
  • “As a result, unlike most other sovereign states, the U.S. constitutionally cannot default on its financial obligations. In particular, it must continue to make payments, interest and principal, on its bonds, effectively requiring Congress to provide sufficient authority for that purpose. This fact, which should be highlighted at every opportunity, makes the U.S. a better credit risk than it may otherwise seem—especially since U.S. Treasury obligations, if it came to it, could be enforced in the courts by their owners.”
  • “Consistent with its obligations under Section Four, Congress should promptly increase the debt ceiling, but with one key caveat: The increase can be used only for borrowing to service existing obligations. By anchoring this action in a specific constitutional obligation, Congress would make it difficult, if not impossible, for the Obama administration to oppose this resolution of the debt-ceiling battle. At the same time, Congress should reclaim immediate control of the issuance of all other new debt obligations.”
  • “From the time of the founding until the passage of the First Liberty Bond Act in 1917, Congress itself voted on each and every new government bond issue, specifying the amount to be borrowed and the terms involved. Today, exercise of this power has been delegated to the Treasury Department, which generally can borrow up to the debt limit. Yet this practice can easily be changed. It wouldn’t even be necessary to repeal the existing ‘debt ceiling’ statutory framework, an action that President Obama might well veto. Congress can simply refuse to use it. In other words, Congress cannot renege on debt already incurred, but it can condition, decrease and even stop issuance of new U.S. debt.”
  • “The need for new government borrowing is constant; currently nearly 40 cents of every dollar the government spends is borrowed. Anytime Congress and the president cannot agree on how new borrowing should be accomplished (and for what purposes), and what additional spending cuts should be implemented to avoid increasing the nation’s overall debt burden, spending will simply be cut across the board by 40%. That is one very big incentive for agreement.”
  • “Of course, were Congress to reclaim this authority and separately approve each new U.S. debt issue, it would once again be directly responsible for government borrowing in a way that it has avoided for nearly 100 years. With political power comes political accountability.” (Highlighting Forum’s throughout.)

Read the entire Rivkin-Casey article here.

Do we have a strong enough House GOP leadership team to shoulder this kind of “fiscal responsibility [which Rivkin and Casey declare] would also be far more consistent with the vision of our Founders”?

And can this GOP leadership explain to the voters in plain words the consequences to all of our lives of failing to rein in the debt?

Daniel Horowitz underscores these consequences (MadisonProject), “Every U.S. Worker Owes $47,482 in Foreign Debt” — drawing on Terence P. Jeffrey’s (CNS) post $5.5T: U.S. Foreign Debt Up 78% Under Obama.

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