Is Joe Biden Finally Ready To Take Control on the Debt Ceiling?
So, one thing that has been driving me bonkers over the debt ceiling and default conversation is how Kevin McCarthy has dominated the conversation entirely. Mainly because it’s like letting a toddler run your household and that man is simply not a serious person. It’s terrifying that he’s the third in line to be President, but I digress.
Too much attention has been given to McCarthy and his irrational and unreasonable demands over a looming crisis of his own doing, and finally, the tide is turning ever so slightly to the actual adults in the room, and their plan to avoid a catastrophic default on America’s debt. I am, of course, talking about America’s president, Joe Biden. I don’t think it will surprise anyone other than the most QAnon among us (and they’re probably not reading this, busy as they are with making a local server’s life miserable and dreaming up ways to ruin their adult children’s summer BBQs) that he’s got a few ideas on how to avoid a default. Per The New York Times:
“We don’t need it all,” Mr. Biden said, referring to the unspent coronavirus funds. “But the question is what obligations were there made, commitments made, money not disbursed, etc.? I have to look, take a hard look at it. It’s on the table.”
[…] The president acknowledged that he is considering what would effectively be a constitutional challenge to the very existence of the debt limit. It is a unilateral path that Mr. Biden conceded could face legal hurdles. But his comments suggested that if Congress could not find a deal to raise the debt limit on terms acceptable to Mr. Biden — and before the nation runs out of cash to pay its bills — the president might be prepared to try to avoid default on his own.
So Biden has publicly said he’s open to two courses: giving back some unspent Coronavirus funds and taking the debt limit to court, which would take time, and undoubtedly go all the way up the Supreme Court. The basis of the lawsuit would be whether it’s constitutional for the House to hold the country hostage over the Debt Ceiling under the 14th Amendment, Section 4:
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. But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
Now, I only have a lowly B.A. in Political Science and took just one constitutional law class, but, uh, it’s pretty explicit right there isn’t it? Our debts, authorized by law, shall not be questioned. The country must pay its debts. Up until now, we’ve tolerated the political theater by the Republicans (why? I have no earthly idea) but personally, I think it’s time to call their bluff. Get through this crisis, and sue to make this case law, regardless. It’s time to end this traditional standoff between a Republican House and a Democratic President that threatens the global economy if not for everyone’s mental and economic health, for the sheer fact it’s just embarrassing for us to the rest of the world. This is akin to fighting with your racist uncle on the front lawn every year at Thanksgiving and all the neighbors coming out and watching. Sure it’s tradition, but not every tradition is good.
Now, these negotiations between Biden and McCarthy over the debt ceiling went down before George Santos got arrested. You might not think these two things are related, but they absolutely are. The House narrowly passed the (egregious) spending bill they want in order to lift the debt ceiling 217 to 215, and it will not pass the Senate so it’s dead in the water. Santos is out on bond now, but who knows what his availability will be for the foreseeable future. McCarthy can hardly rely on his vote going forward. His majority is hanging on by a thread to a coalition that isn’t united, to begin with. Remember: it took 15 rounds of voting to elect him to be Speaker of the House! This is uncharted territory, and I can’t help but think McCarthy isn’t looking for an exit ramp to get out of this mess. Biden is offering him one with giving back unspent COVID relief funds, let’s hope he sees this for the gift it is, and takes it.
Biden, for his part, is acting like a grownup at least, remarking upon a looming default: “I will do everything in my power to avoid it.” McCarthy is not, but what else is new?
At this point, it’s up to the Republicans to realize this is an unwinnable game of chicken, the Constitution is against them, and Biden is fully prepared to go the litigation route. Maybe it’s time for them to swerve?
(featured image: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
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