Friday, May 27, 2011

Debt Limit Posturing

On May 25, twenty-three Republican senators sent a letter to President Obama (while omitting his name anywhere on the actual letter) stating that "it is irresponsible not to develop robust contingency plans," a "Debt Ceiling Budget," in case the Congress does not pass an increase in the debt limit. They do not say that this requires any legislative action, which is not going to happen in any case. They do, however, say that the Administration should work with Congressional budget experts on this. The senators, of course, know that this letter will be ignored. This is not serious.

It is surprising that those opposed to the Obama Administration and to increasing the debt limit seem willing, even eager, for the Congress to give up the power of the purse to the Executive branch. In this hypothetical world, what makes them think they would be happy with the choices the President would make?

Moreover, while I have not seen any legal analysis of this in the debt limit context, Nixon-era legislation limiting the President's ability to impound funds may limit the Executive branch's ability to deny funds for certain programs in order to hoard cash to pay interest or other priorities. (For those interested, the relevant portion of the U.S. Code starts here.)

If the senators are proposing legislation, they cannot possibly think that the Administration in the next few weeks will agree with Congress to a budget that requires no increase in the debt subject to limit, including the debt held by the trust funds. It doesn't even matter what the Administration thinks. No such budget could receive Congressional approval. Some of these senators must be afraid of a Tea Party revolt in their states, such as that which felled Senator Bennett of Utah. This is just plain posturing, which is not helpful for the reputation of the Senate as a serious deliberative body.

1 comment:

  1. Good analyses, and good letter to Editor, WSJ May 4.