Just as Tea Party representatives begin to bring the Constitution back into vogue, primarily to curb the power and spending of Congress, an innovative interpretation of the 14th Amendment floats around the capital, finding enthusiastic supporters amongst advocates of never-ending debt accumulation.
You see, Congress has limited the debt, by law, since 1917. And has raised that limit umpteen times (ten times this past decade). Now that Tea Party Republicans are using the debt limit to negotiate cuts in spending, the pro-spending forces are becoming frantic.
Some of them now argue that Section Four of the 14th Amendment would allow the president to raise the debt limit without Congressional permission. After all, “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”
At first blush this makes some sense, until one realizes that the 1917 law is, in fact, “the authorization” mentioned in the very clause — at which point the argument collapses faster than the integrity of politicians in closed session.
Still, the idea of the Executive Branch interposing between Congress and the people — like “state nullification” interposed, in James Madison’s very words, between the federal government and the people — is worth thinking about. And Congress could reinstate the president’s power to “impound” funds designated by Congress that he judges not authorized by the Constitution.
But you won’t find pro-spending forces advocating that.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.