GOP 2012: The Gift That Keeps on Giving
As if there isn’t already enough thick, creamy, scrumptious schadenfreude to get good and sick on, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threw another bucketful into the pot with his history-making self-inflicted-filibuster, yesterday afternoon. That’s right, folks, the Pharoah of the Filibuster brought the hammer down on his own bill, yesterday, when his political bluff went terribly wrong.
Per Talking Points Memo:
Today, he [McConnell] tried to embarrass Senate Democrats and the White House by calling for a vote on Barack Obama’s plan to allow the President, instead of Congress, to raise the debt ceiling. Well it turns out Democrats were perfectly willing to support that plan, and he ended up having to filibuster his own gambit.
In so doing he nearly dealt away the GOP’s last significant source of leverage over President Obama. If Senate Democrats can, and are allowed, to effectively raise the debt ceiling on their own, without GOP votes, House Republicans will be isolated next year, threatening to wreck the global economy rather than pass a viable Senate Democratic bill to avert a needless, politically motivated disaster.
The legislation introduced was modeled on McConnell’s own “last-choice option” to avert a U.S. debt default last year. It would permit the president to unilaterally lift the debt ceiling unless Congress mustered a two-thirds majority to stop him. President Obama likes the idea.
McConnell, mistakenly believed that he could publicly embarrass Democrats with a vote proving that Democrats would not support it. He said:
. . . there is bipartisan opposition to giving this or any President the unlimited authority to raise the debt ceiling.
When Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid agreed to an up-or-down vote, it was obvious to McConnell that Reid might have enough votes to pass it. McConnell was then forced to filibuster his own bill, demanding that it needed 60 votes to pass.
That was soul satisfying political theater but it somewhat obscures the real issue with the debt-ceiling discussion—the fact that Republicans are baldly lying about the ramifications of raising the debt ceiling to drum up public opposition among their base.
Here’s how that works . . .
In his remarks to the Senate, yesterday, this is how McConnell framed the debate:
By demanding the power to raise the debt limit whenever he wants by as much as he wants, [President Obama] showed what he’s really after is assuming unprecedented power to spend taxpayer dollars without any limit.
Now, I have to assume that Mitch McConnell is not that ignorant of Constitutional law, therefore I have to conclude that he is OK with outright lying to the American people to achieve his political ends. Because, without amending the Constitution, it is impossible for the scenario that McConnell presents to actually happen.
If the United States has a huge debt (and it does, comparatively speaking) it is Congress’ fault, not the President’s.
Brian Beutler of TPM describes this in a way that is accessible to non-constitutional-lawyers, like me:
The debt limit is a nearly century old historical artifact. It’s a statute, not a Constitutional requirement. By contrast, the Constitution explicitly grants Congress, not the Executive Branch, the power to raise and spend money. When Congress orders the Executive Branch to spend more money than it collects in revenue, the Executive must finance the difference by borrowing — with debt.
But the Executive Branch can only spend as much money as Congress tells it to, even if there were no limits on the amount of debt it could issue. The country’s debt, in other words, has nothing to do with the debt limit, but with the tax and spending decisions Congress has made over the past two-plus centuries.
Refusing to raise the debt limit only cuts spending inasmuch as it forces the Executive Branch to renege on commitments to creditors, or to people and projects to whom Congress has pledged funds.
But Republicans are using the debt limit, and Obama’s request to remove it from the realm of partisan legislative politics, to characterize it as a de facto presidential power to spend money that doesn’t exist.
Who’s zooming who? I ask you . . . These are the same people who will shove their pocket-sized US Constitution in your face to justify any fairy tale they make up.