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Debt Ceiling, Not Government Shutdown, Should Be Congress's Concern

US Senate Votes On House Spending Bill

Another day, another dreary episode in Washington’s shutdown/debt limit soap opera, reports CNN:

In a move that makes a shutdown appear very likely, House Republicans approved a spending plan early Sunday morning that would delay Obamacare for a year and repeal its tax on medical devices.

The temporary budget resolution now goes back to the Senate, where Democrats have consistently said any changes to President Barack Obama’s signature health care law would be a deal-killer.

On top of that, Obama has already issued a veto threat.

If Washington can’t reach a deal, a government shutdown will begin at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday.

The Senate will likely spend today rejecting the House’s plan, and the House in turn will either put the Senate’s bill on the floor or force a government shutdown.

In our view, it actually isn’t the end of the world if the government shuts down for a couple of days. In fact, it would be a nice reminder to all that even when Washington is neutered, life in the republic churns healthily along.

Anything that imperils timely payments on the national debt, however, would be completely irresponsible. Avoiding this scenario should be the real focus of those running everyone’s favorite branch of government. We hope the pols in Congress are getting their kicks with the government shutdown fight but sober up when the debt ceiling votes come due.

[Ted Cruz photo courtesy of Getty Images]

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  • jdkolassa

    The debt will be paid. Debt payments are automatic and nothing is going to stop them.

    • Andrew Allison

      More accurately, debt payment comes off the top of government revenue. It is disappointing to see VM buy into the debt default lie.

      • jdkolassa

        Right. They’ll change things around so other programs will go short, but the government will never stop debt payment. Never ever ever.

  • Anthony

    Eric Posner and Adrian Vermule: “Obama Should Raise the Debt Ceiling on his Own.”

    Note: Eric Posner is not a leftist by any stretch of the imagination. This is the last word on his issue, as far as any rational person is concerned

    • Anthony

      “PRESIDENT OBAMA should announce that he will raise the debt ceiling
      unilaterally if he cannot reach a deal with Congress. Constitutionally,
      he would be on solid ground. Politically, he can’t lose. The public
      wants a deal. The threat to act unilaterally will only strengthen his
      bargaining power if Republicans don’t want to be frozen out; if they
      defy him, the public will throw their support to the president. Either
      way, Republicans look like the obstructionists and will pay a price.”

      “Where would Mr. Obama get his constitutional authority to raise the debt ceiling? ”

      “Our argument is not based on some obscure provision of the 14th
      amendment, but on the necessities of state, and on the president’s role
      as the ultimate guardian of the constitutional order, charged with
      taking care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

      • Andrew Allison

        “. . . and on the president’s role
        as the ultimate guardian of the constitutional order . . .” That’s certainly his opinion, but in fact that responsibility lies with the Supreme Court.

        • Anthony

          He happens to be a Reagan appointee, one of the creators of the law and economics movement, and a man considered by most legal scholars, left right and center, to be the greatest judge in the world.

          Additionally, the supreme court would have to side with Obama, lest they be complicit in destroying the economy.

          • Andrew Allison

            With respect, as it has demonstrated in decisions on previous unconstitutional actions by the Executive Branch, the Supremes uphold the Constitution.

      • Anthony

        Also, notice that while Judge Posner – Eric Posner’s father – believes that Obama has the right to raise the debt ceiling, he also believes that a credible plan to bring entitlement spending under control in the long run is a must.

    • wigwag

      Thank you, Anthony, for an excellent comment. Professor Posner makes a compelling argument; and you are right that he is on the “right” side of the political spectrum. Posner’s father is a brilliant jurist; I regret that he was never elevated to the Supreme Court. While he leans somewhat to the right ideologically speaking, the senior Posner is a maverick, an iconoclast and unpredictable.

      What Eric shares with his father is not only his ideological outlook and his intelligence, he also shares his extraordinarily cogent writing style. I have been a fan of Eric Posner for sometime and I heartily recommend his recent book criticizing the concept of international law, “The Limits of International Law.”

      I agree with Posner that Obama should raise the debt limit unilaterally and I agree with you that if he does so, it’s a huge political winner for him one way or the other.

      What’s remarkable is that members of the GOP majority in the House are so aghast at the idea that millions of Americans who were once uninsured now have the opportunity to purchase health insurance that they are willing to close the government down, potentially default on the debt and turn the House of Representatives into a body that is more politically irrelevant than they have already made it.

      As if this wasn’t enough, they are in the process of destroying any slim hope that the GOP had to elect a Republican president in the foreseeable future.

      It’s really quite extraordinary.

      Thank you again for the citation.

      • Anthony

        The problem is that many of the Republicans in the house come from districts where President Obama does not have, and never has had, any substantial support. If you live in Alabama, it’s likely that you can go along for months without meeting a single white person in your day to day life that voted for Obama.

        Furthermore, the GOP, and our political culture more genally, have been affected by the rise of the deranged right wing media, and no, I’m not saying that all conservatives, or even all arch conservatives, are crazy; the people I’m referring to are frankly to the right of even Rush Limbaugh. Think of Glenn Beck and Alex Jones. These people say with a straight face that Obama and the Democrats are destroying the USA and only the Tea Party can save America from a total meltdown. Alex Jones, whose show is listened to be many people, spreads the message that Barack Obama – either alone or acting in collusion with large corportions – is going to establish a dictatorship.

        Since the economy is still a disaster for many hard working Americans, and since it is becoming increasingly clear that the establishment in both parties really doesn’t have much to say in terms of how to make things better, it is easier to sell crazy ideas than it used to be. Look for this trend to continue by the way in the years ahead. As the middle class shrinks and society become economically and socially polarized, you will see more “rhetorical entrepreneurs,” on the left and the right come to the fore with crackpot solutions that will initially appeal to disaffected people.

        • wigwag

          Here’s a little quiz; its multiple choice so there’s no reason to worry.

          Which is the most pathetic?

          A) A punch drunk pugilist convinced that if he just picks himself off the canvas he can land a haymaker that will win the fight.

          B) A smelly drunk who thinks the best remedy for his hangover from last night’s binge is a couple of more shots.

          C) An inveterate gambler who’s lost almost everything who’s sure if he can just borrow some cash from a loan shark that his luck is sure to turn

          D) The GOP controlled House, convinced that if they defund Obama-care even if it means shutting down the Government and defaulting on the debt, that the public will rally to their side.

          E) They are all horribly pathetic.

          F) None of them are pathetic.

          Answer key: D

  • Anthony

    Yes, the president is the national guardian of the system (socio-economic and constitutional) and yes Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule’s 2011 NYT article is just as relevant to 2013 debt ceiling contretemps. However like any officeholder, the president plays a duel role in that he must deal not only with the overall crises of capitalism but also make a showing of serving the people through established channels (congress). Now this speaks to WRM’s Quick Take and a more timely view is espoused by Roger Simon:

    “Who are these people? Of what are they made that they can say and do such things on the floor of congress. No nonsense is too great, no act too low…. We live in a time when outright buffoonery passes for statesmanship.”

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