Monday, July 04, 2011

The constitutional option

In time of rebellion?

President Obama continues to act as though he thinks it's possible to hold meaningful discussions with the Republicans in Congress. He probably knows better by now, but hesitates to abandon his public expressions of confidence in the good faith of the GOP opposition. He should have stopped the pretense months ago, especially since the Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives care nothing about negotiation. They want only to have everything their way, as if the 2010 election nullified the results of 2008 (please ignore the inconvenient fact that the Democrats retained a majority in the U.S. Senate), and they're perfectly willing to cripple the economy in hopes of reaping a further political windfall in 2012.

Of course, if Obama were to call out the Republicans and denounce them for their obstructionism, they would undoubtedly scream and tear their hair, decrying the president's partisanship. We can always count on them to over-react. It's the one ploy of which they never tire. They might even work up such a fervor that they would impeach the president. Certainly they have ample grounds,having already pointed out that the president is an unconstitutional tyrant, Marxist, socialist, communist, and foreign usurper. At least one of those must be a high crime or misdemeanor, right?

It is therefore rather delicious to consider that the U.S. Constitution contains a possible remedy for the current Republican posturing over the nation's debt limit. GOP senators like Cornyn of Texas are pre-emptively denouncing the notion that the 14th Amendment trumps the statutory debt limit and kicks the props out from under the Republican attempt to hold the nation's economy hostage.

I'm not a constitutional scholar (and neither is Cornyn, for that matter), but we can all read the fourth section of the 14th Amendment to see if we can understand it:
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.
Its language is rather strong. Without significant qualification, it says that “the validity of the public debt of the United States ... shall not be questioned.” As long as the debts are incurred by law, the U.S. will not and cannot default. Is there any other way to read that?

I suppose someone could point to paragraph 5 (“The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article”) and try to argue that the national debt is under legislative authority, but it merely empowers Congress to devise the ways and means to meet the country's obligations. It doesn't say anything about debt ceilings or caps or any such thing. If the House of Representatives want to lower the national debt, it need merely spend less. All appropriations must originate in the House anyway.

The neglected clause

I am certain that the Republican House would squeal like a stuck pig if Obama were to invoke the provisions of the 14th Amendment to empower the Secretary of the Treasury to service the national debt without regard to the statutory debt limit. (The Constitution, after all, is superior to anything that is merely statutory.) The GOP might even add it to their list of impeachable offenses, which in their fevered imaginations must be remarkably long by now.

Let me give them something else to fuss over:

No one has been talking about an exceedingly interesting clause in the 14th Amendment. The language about legitimate debts incurred by the U.S. includes the language “bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion.” This is evidently simple acknowledgment that the 14th Amendment was enacted in the wake of the Civil War, but it does not specifically cite the war between the states. It speaks generically about insurrection and rebellion. Therefore, if President Obama were to deem it necessary, the 14th Amendment gives him an unlimited line of credit to pay for putting down rebellion.

Oh, oh. Watch out, teabaggers! As Glenn Beck has often informed us, the FEMA concentration camps must be ready for occupancy now. It's just a matter of finding traitors to incarcerate in them. I can't imagine that it would be difficult. We have seen plenty of Republicans and teabaggers calling for the overthrow of the federal government.

If we go back to the Constitution, we find the following language:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
Is advocating secession an overt act of treason? Let's ask Rick Perry what Abraham Lincoln would say! Gov. Perry has espoused the notion that Texas could leave the Union (although he might prefer that we forget his remarks, now that he is maneuvering into the presidential race).

Let's make a list of treacherous people for the president to round up. He needs to be ready to apply the Constitution more effectively!


Disturbingly Openminded said...

Just the other day, Sen. Cornyn said something to this effect: "It wasn't government stimulus that ended the Great Depression, it was the war."

There is also the mystery of every Republican in Congress voting for the Ryan budget, which would add $5.7 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years, while insisting that they are adamantly opposed to increasing the debt.

Sili said...

Would you get to confiscate the assets of the Cock brothers if they were to be convicted for treason?

Anonymous said...

Or maybe the President has some of the same goals as the Republicans. He is, after all, a moderate conservative. In this case the negotiation is getting him exactly what he wants.

Confrontation isn't one of those things.