The president knows he can’t let the precedent established last year become the new normal in budget talks. He knows the debt ceiling is a weird relic that no other country (save Denmark, sort of) possesses. In most nations, the act of the legislature passing a budget simultaneously authorizes its treasury to borrow whatever debt that budget contains. That’s only common sense.
If Ben Bernanke can press the limits of legal authority to save the economy, and Obama himself can press these limits to approve a “hit list” for drones, then defanging the debt ceiling should be child’s play by comparison.
A senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and the host of the new podcast “This...Is Interesting,” Miller writes a weekly column for The Post.
It’s a Reagan air traffic controller moment. The country can’t be held hostage by unreasonable people. The public will be with Obama once he explains.
Here are two ways the president can proceed.
The first — call it the Clinton approach — would be to announce (in a major speech) that the debt limit is an unconstitutional anachronism that, when combined with proven GOP recklessness, poses unacceptable risks to every American. Obama would say that by executive action he’s declaring it inoperative. And if Mitch McConnell and John Boehner don’t like it, he’ll see them in court.
What I think of as “the LBJ option” is cheekier. Obama would inform the Republican negotiators — as early as Friday, or in another meeting soon — that he won’t allow a repeat of their debt-ceiling blackmail. He’d say we’re all going to lock arms, go outside now and tell the press that we won’t rattle markets this way, so everyone can be assured.
Then when they’re in front of the cameras, Obama would say that to avoid spooking markets, and to do so in the most bipartisan way possible, congressional leaders have agreed to raise the debt limit immediately by $5.7 trillion dollars — the amount of debt added over the next decade by Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget passed by the House last year. “Mitch, John, you’re with me on raising the limit for now just by what it takes to accommodate the debt every Republican has already voted to add, yes?”
I’m sure the White House can cook up variations on these themes, but you get the point.
Time to remove the fiscal appendix, Mr. President. For sane governance to live, the debt limit must die.
Matt Miller is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and co-host of public radio’s “Left, Right & Center.” His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.