President Obama is taking the position that he will not negotiate over raising the debt ceiling again. He has the backing of a group of Democratic lawmakers, who want him to go further and take action that could ultimately throw the entire debt debate out of the elected branches of government and into the courts.
Democrats in Congress argue Obama should not feel constrained by the 1917 debt limit law, which the federal government is projected to hit in late February, because it conflicts with other laws.
“The president I think has the authority under the Constitution and under the various statutes that are passed — if nothing is done — he must do something about paying the bills,” said Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.). “That issue may well go to the courts in our system.”
“He’s got two different statutes telling him different things and he can resolve — multiple statutes telling him different things — he can resolve that issue,” Udall added.
Udall and other Democrats say Obama has the discretion to arbitrate among conflicting laws.
Udall believes the debt limit, which was created by the Second Liberty Bond Act of 1917, clashes with landmark legislation such as the Social Security Act of 1935, the Medicare Act of 1965 and various appropriations laws that direct the executive branch to spend federal funds on an array of priorities.
They also argue that the 14th Amendment gives Obama authority to ignore the debt limit. That’s specious: The 14th Amendment was passed to make sure that Southern lawmakers could not use their power in Congress to repudiate America’s Civil War debt. It’s not about defaulting on the national debt.
What these Democrats want to do is lawless and immature. They want to punt the consequences of decades of overspending, a habit which has gotten much worse since 2006 when Democrats took over Congress and then Obama’s election in 2008, over to the courts because they don’t have the courage or judgement to sort it out themselves.