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Senator Mitch McConnell's Insufficient Debt Ceiling Plan

Posted By Rory Cooper On July 12, 2011 @ 6:17 pm In Economics | Comments Disabled

Earlier today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell floated a proposal that, essentially, cedes the authority for raising the debt limit from the Congress to the president.

Under McConnell’s plan, President Obama would propose three incremental debt limit increases between now and the end of 2012.  Congress could only vote to disapprove these requests, which President Obama could then veto. Without a 2/3 majority in Congress to override that veto, which is very unlikely, the debt limit increase would become automatic.

This plan is insufficient and is obviously a non-starter. At a time of record deficits and an ever-worsening economy, it would be the height of irresponsibility to raise the federal debt ceiling $2.5 trillion without at the same time implementing sweeping systemic reforms that would restore our nation’s economy.

First, this plan effectively eliminates Congress’ authority and responsibility for the federal budget.  We won’t know if real cuts will even exist, rather than the smoke and mirrors Americans have been suckered by in the past.

It’s obvious the President’s has very liberal spending priorities, meaning defense would be cut while Obamacare and stimulus projects continued to be fully funded.

But the plan is also based on small hopes for future cuts in spending, with no hope for systemic reform and virtually guarantees $2.5 trillion will be added to our federal deficit.

Regardless, this proposal raises several serious constitutional concerns.  Depending on exactly how the legislative language is drafted, it well might violate the Bicameralism and Presentment Clauses for the making of law, the separation of powers regarding Congress’s control over the budget and spending, the legislative Recommendations Clause, and it might also be struck down as an attempt to grant the President the equivalent of a line-item veto.  It is also unclear whether the unconstitutional portion would be struck down by the courts and severed from the rest of the statute (which would eliminate Congress’s ability to veto the cuts) or if the entire scheme would be struck down.  But, at a minimum, the proposal is highly dubious as a matter of constitutional law.

The American people sent this Congress to Washington last November with a mandate to get government under control, not do their best to place blame for its insolvency. We cannot kick this problem down the road, and we cannot spend time developing escape hatches rather than solutions.

The only bipartisan agreement in Washington right now is that the debt ceiling cannot be raised without real and tangible spending cuts. Let’s not retreat from that important position.

We understand that the plan, by design, puts the onus on liberals in Washington to finally propose some way to address out of control spending. They have not passed a budget in more than 800 days.  Unfortunately  political maneuvering in a time of such high stakes is not sufficient.


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