Constitution Watch: The Abdicating CongressJuly 28th, 2011
We’re now five days away from hitting the deadline to get a deal done to raise the debt ceiling, and things aren’t looking up for anybody interested in a “grand bargain”, or anything other than maintaining the status quo. What’s even more depressing is that from a couple of negotiations, there seems to be an almost bi-partisan push to surrender lawmaking authority to either the executive branch or a small group of lawmakers beholden to practically nobody.
In one case, some lawmakers are considering giving the president authority to raise the debt ceiling by himself, using a vague interpretation of the 14th amendment that states that the ability of incur debt “shall not be questioned”. The other method, which is being supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), would allow a “Super Congress” to be formed, a 12-member body from the House and Senate that would have the exclusive power to draft legislation regarding the deficit, and the legislation couldn’t be amended by either the House or Senate. It doesn’t take much research to know that both of these proposals are disasters waiting to happen.
Starting with the “14th amendment solution”, which I mentioned in a previous “Constitution Watch” article, is a gross misinterpretation of one section of the Constitution, which disregards the part where it gives Congress the power to tax and spend. While I’m not surprised some of the President’s advisors want him to involve the 14th amendment, I am surprised that some in Congress want to handover decision making on the debt to the President so readily. As for the “Super Congress”, which is the proposed bicameral, bipartisan panel, it is just as bad. The deficit, which is getting closer to $2 trillion with no real end in sight, is one of the most important issues facing the legislature. Letting such a major issue be decided by 12 out of 535 members of Congress is unwise, especially if it’s filled with legislators committed to tax increases rather than making any meaningful cuts. Unsurprisingly, this proposal is being attacked by both the left and right as an unconstitutional power-grab that shuts out 96% of legislators to the decision making process, and reduces their role to a simple “yea or nay” vote on whatever the panel comes up with.
Why anybody would agree to such proposals is extraordinary, and demonstrates that too many politicians are committed to doing less work if it means facing less fury from their constituents. They forget that they represent the branch of government our Founding Fathers designed to be the backbone of the national government, and to prevent a powerful executive from ruling the country unchecked, like a king. They would be rolling in their graves if they heard what Congress is proposing right now.