The Washington Post

Debt Limit Votes Are Constitutionally Protected

Amid all the talk about the “fiscal cliff,” one aspect has gone under-discussed: President Obama’s unconstitutional power grab. To wit: The president wants Congress and the public to be removed from the process and discussion of raising our national debt limit. 

The debt limit is a useful tool to instigate the occasional public debate about our debt, its growth and its consequences.  But it’s much more than that. The Constitution makes plain that matters regarding the debt and spending start with the House of Representatives. Period.  Article 1, Section 8 states that, “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.”  And the framers of the Constitution, not unlike today’s members of the House of Representatives, were close to the people. When the Constitution was written, the framers wanted members of the House to represent the people and to negotiate on their behalf. 

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, in an interview with CNBC’s “Closing Bell,” discussed his belief that the debt ceiling should be eliminated, saying, “We are not prepared to have the American economy held hostage to periodic threats that Republicans will force the country to default on our obligations.”  What he really meant was, “We are not prepared to be burdened by constitutional limits on our power to spend like drunken sailors.”

As readers know, I’m heavily invested in the idea that we have always been ready to go over the cliff.  The only thing that could make going over the cliff worse would be if we simultaneously eroded one of the central pillars of our Constitution. 

Ed Rogers is a contributor to the PostPartisan blog, a political consultant and a veteran of the White House and several national campaigns. He is the chairman of the lobbying and communications firm BGR Group, which he founded with former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour in 1991.


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