On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) — whose job consists of never making his members take a vote of any consequence — begged President Obama to do what the White House said it could not, namely invoke the 14th Amendment and raise the debt ceiling unilaterally. This is a pathetic abdication of responsibility, once again, from Democratic senators. Why do they want the majority if they don’t, you know, want to do something? (You wonder how they are going to get out of voting on controversial nominees.)
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) fired back: “The Democrat leadership hiding under their desks and hoping the president will find a way around the law on the nation’s maxed-out credit card is not only the height of irresponsibility but also a guarantee that our national debt crisis will only get worse.” He made a good case that Democrats are doing everything but governing: “With the president asking Congress to raise the debt ceiling, Democrats in Washington are falling all over themselves in an effort to do anything they can to get around the law — and to avoid taking any responsibility for Washington’s out-of-control spending. Rather than offering any plan to break the spending habit that’s causing the problem, Democrats are looking at everything from the ridiculous (printing a trillion-dollar coin) to outright abdication of congressional responsibility. But avoiding this problem will only make it worse, which is why many of us view the upcoming debt limit debate as a perfect opportunity to face up to Washington’s spending.” (How exactly McConnell is going to use the debt limit isn’t yet clear.)
However, if the president were to attempt to usurp unilaterally the power to incur further debt, things might get very dicey for him. A public backlash and litigation would ensue, with confusion in the markets and a negative consequence for our bond rating. (Is the issued debt valid? Will the U.S. stand behind it if the move is found to be unconstitutional?) The listless economy could well take a hit, and the president would rightly be viewed as an imperial president bent on shredding the Constitution. It would, I am sure, effectively end any cooperation with Congress over anything for the remainder of his presidency.
And the Republicans would have been entirely blameless in this exercise. They’d be on the side of the Constitution, economic sanity and the U.S. credit rating. They’d have every excuse to block everything and anything the president wanted to do.
Is the president so foolish (or arrogant?) as to take Reid up on his suggestion? Well, he nominated Jack Lew and Chuck Hagel, didn’t he? He’s eliminated independent thinkers from his inner circle. He seems to think that he, and he alone, has a mandate to rule. Nah. He couldn’t be that clueless, could he? I don’t know. Maybe he asked Reid to send him the request.
In any event, Republicans should object loudly. But maybe not too loudly.