Isn’t it odd that the in the House of Representatives, the Republicans added a rule to read parts of the Constitution that justifies any new bill while the Senate Republicans want to defy the Constitution? Senator Mitch McConnell wants to allow the President to propose an increase to the debt limit in which Congress will vote on its “approval”. Unlike a bill that would come out of Congress and allow the President to sign it and therefore become law, the McConnell plan allows the President to veto a Congressional vote that is not in favor of an approval or “Disapproves” the proposal. According to the McConnell plan, this veto would then allow the president on his own power to raise the debt ceiling.
This is wrong on multiple levels. Politically, it is cowardly to see the desire to on one hand allow the debt ceiling to be raised, but on the other hand have a majority vote against it for political cover. Politics, however, has not always been the most noble profession and this is no exception. The big problem is with the Constitutionality of this this move. The framers of the Constitution were very clear about which branch has the ability to raise debt. It is spelled out in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution that the branch with such power is the Legislature:
Powers of Congress
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
The McConnell Plan would transfer this power, albeit with a time limit, to the Executive Branch by enabling the President to usurp Legislative power and rule of law with the use of a Veto. The Constitution is very clear about putting the purse strings of the United States in the hands of the Legislature. They understood that the body to authorize spending must be separate from the body that actually spends. The concentration of both authorizing and spending power in one person’s hands is too great.
James Madison warned of this in The Federalist Papers #47. He wrote:
The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. Were the federal Constitution, therefore, really chargeable with the accumulation of power, or with a mixture of powers, having a dangerous tendency to such an accumulation, no further arguments would be necessary to inspire a universal reprobation of the system.
Madison warns us of placing powers in the hands of one branch that are not subject to the checks and balances of the others. Congress should not be able to circumvent the Constitution and cede power to the President (even if they wish to). It is odd that the very party that wants to see the President ousted from office in the next election is so willing to hand over their own power to the very same President.
Our only hope, if this plan becomes law, is that the Supreme Court in short order declares this plan to be un-Constitutional. However, that in and of itself creates a domino effect of issues surrounding any of the debt related activities that the President under the plan.
Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution 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. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
If the Supreme Court were to rule on the plan as un-Constitutional, what would happen to any debts taken under that plan? Is there a Constitutional crisis when two sections of the Constitution would conflict?
Given the limited time before the United States has to raise the debt ceiling and the Constitutional issues with the McConnell plan, I have to question the judgement of the very people considering it on both sides.