A Constitutional Lesson on the Debt Limit Negotiations for President Obama, Congress, and the Low Information Liberal Voters.

This article is mainly for low information liberals who have a hard time understanding the US Constitution’s role in the debt ceiling negotiations. As many may have heard this week, the looming fiscal cliff is approaching. A series of automatic spending cuts and tax increases that will supposedly lead us into economic armageddon. A little known part of the President’s proposal is that he has proposed to be given, via legislation written by Congress, the sole power to raise or lower the federal debt ceiling whenever he wants. Now before I get into the constitutional aspect of this, let me from a common sense standpoint inform people how this is a threat to democracy and the American republic.

The power to borrow on behalf of others is quite a power. The power to make others indebted to you or another entity is corruptible, and absolute. That is effectively what our government does for its citizens. It borrows money everyday, based on the promise that you, taxpayers will be able to repay that money to the United States. So it can in turn repay its creditors. President Obama wants for himself, and every other President after him, the sole arbitrary power to raise the amount that he can borrow on your, the taxpayer’s credit card. Meaning there is no vote on the matter, no deliberation amongst hundreds of elected leaders in an entity such as the House of Representative, just a single decision, by a single man or woman. Congress was meant to be a deliberate legislative body. Our system of checks and balances, was meant to be deliberate and not to flow with the prevailing political winds. Our political system is actually doing its job on the fiscal cliff negotiations. If you believe that Congress should be quick about everything, or maybe the President should just decide himself, go back to the history books. The President’s proposal based on a common sense democratic analysis, is by its very nature un-American. In fact, it sounds more like a monarchy, or totalitarian form of government rather than the American republic.

Now to the US Constitution. What I like to refer to as America’s operating system. First let me remind everybody that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. If you do not think so, go read Marbury v. Madison. Need more evidence, go read Article VI, Section II of the US Constitution. Now with that being said the relevant portions of the Constitution for this discussion are Articles I and II. Article I governs the legislative power (Congress). Article II governs the executive power (the President). If you have ever read the Constitution, notice how it is a power granting document to the Congress, the Executive, and the Supreme Court. Of course the Amendments are prohibitive in nature. But I am referring to Articles I-III. Meaning that if Article I does not say Congress can do a specific thing, it cannot. There is no ambiguity in that. If there was, the Tenth Amendment comes in and clarifies it for us. The Tenth Amendment States “The powers not delegated to the United Stated by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This is a very important sentence to understand the context of the Constitution as a power granting, rather than prohibitive document.

First, Article I, Section I states that “All legislative Powers herein shall be vested in a Congress of the United States…” This effectively means that all laws shall be made in Congress. Now to the topic of the debt ceiling and the specific congressional powers associated with it. Article I, Section 8 states “Congress shall have power….To borrow money on the credit of the United States.” This puts substance to my sentence in the second paragraph. The Congress has the sole power to borrow money. Therefore, don’t they have the implied power to control how much money can be borrowed on the credit of the federal government?   This power is used in conjunction with the so called tax and spend power. See Article I, Section 8 phrase I, “The Congress shall have Power to lay and collect Taxes,…to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United State.” Therefore Congress, has the ability to make laws which deal with borrowing money, collecting taxes, and spending the borrowed money or direct tax revenues to pay for things such as Defense spending. Then use the tax revenues to pay back the debt liability. When Congress chooses to borrow money for programs, your tax dollars and property are essentially the collateral. So that should be enough to explain that the Congress has the sole power to raise or lower the debt ceiling.

But I will keep going, just in case you need more. Now this part takes even more critical thinking. Buckle up, I know the super liberal universities don’t teach that anymore. The last phrase in Article I, Section 8 states “The Congress shall have power…To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department of Officer thereof.” In one of the most important cases Maryland v. McCullough which dealt with the constitutionality of the chartering of the Second Bank of the United States, when discussing whether Congress had the power to do so, Chief Justice Marshall said “Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the Constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited (by the Constitution), but consist (sic) with the letter and spirit of the constitution, are constitutional.” This effectively means that so long as what Congress is attempting to do is constitutional (the end), the means Congress uses, so long as related to that end, and not prohibited by the Constitution, are constitutional. Basically, Congress may choose any means, not prohibited by the Constitution, to carry out it express authority, so long as the means it uses are necessary and proper for carrying out its express authority specifically enumerated in other sections of Article I. So in the debt ceiling example, Congress passes a law which requires borrowing, so by fact of necessity they have the power to raise or lower the debt ceiling in order to borrow the required amount of money the federal government needs.

Now to Article II, which governs what the President can do. I just read Article II in its entirety for like the 500th time. Of course it mentions the almighty “Commander in Chief” power, the power to make Treaties with consent of Senate, the power to nominate Supreme Court justices, the power to nominate Ambassadors, the power to grant pardons, etc. Surprisingly, nowhere in Article II did I see the word tax, revenue, debt, money, or spend. None of these words appear in the document that grant the President of the United States his powers. The President has no power when it comes to borrowing money, and therefore no power to raise or lower the debt ceiling.  Enough said.

Now some may argue that via the power to make laws, that Congress may legislate the power to raise or lower the debt ceiling away to the President. There is some debate on this issue, mostly in the area of the delegation doctrine, or congressional delegation of legislating, or lawmaking power. Now, as I said, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It states that the Congress has the power to borrow, tax, and spend. There is no gray area here. The only way to change who handles raising or lowering the debt ceiling is to amend the Constitution, not simply to make a law giving the President that power. Of course it is much harder to amend the Constitution than pass a law. I would love to discuss the delegation of legislative power by Congress, but this post would be much longer than it already is. For a discussion of the delegation of legislative powers by Congress see J.W. Hampton Jr. & Co. v. United States, a Supreme Court case in I believe, the 1920s.

The President taught constitutional law. He is not an idiot when it comes to this issue. He thought the Fourteenth Amendment would apparently give him the authority to raise or lower the debt ceiling arbitrarily. Not even close. He knows what he is proposing is patently unconstitutional. It is nothing more than a power grab by the most un-American President in the history of our nation. Not because he is biracial, not because he lived in Indonesia, or was born in Hawaii, but because his ideology is simply the antithesis of our founding principles of a limited federal government, federalism, and the rule of law (i.e., following the constitution). The President and his good liberal friends in Congress all take an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. The President, by proposing this preposterous plan to have sole power to raise the debt ceiling, and Congress favoring this power the President seeks are acting in a manner absolutely contrary to the letter and the spirit of the Constitution. They have essentially failed on their oaths to uphold the United States Constitution. Every American should be outraged by the President’s proposal, but then as evidenced by the most recent election, most are low information liberal voters, the audience of this post, who love their Obama phones, welfare, and cannot wait to get home and watch American Idol, or Jersey Shore. They wil likely not care until the lights go off, and then they will blame the Republicans.