Obama Can Solve The Looming Debt Ceiling Crisis With A Mandate
The fight is on. Republicans have made no secret about their intention to use the debt ceiling as leverage for huge cuts on social programs like medicaid, healthcare and social security. With some of them, Ted Cruz, Mat Salmon and Pat Toomey, even going as far as calling for a government shut down of the kind we saw in 95. Their position is clear, they’re ready, and very willing to let the United States treasury default on its debts if the president doesn’t give into their demands.
The president on the other hand has also stated unequivocally that he has no intentions of doing so, reiterating his position that congress must pay the spending bill it has accrued so far. Saying:
“If Congress in any way suggests they’re going to tie up negotiations over debt ceiling votes and take us to the brink of default once again as part of a budget negotiation, I will not play that game.”
The last time both branches of government engaged in this type of stand off was July of 2011, and consequently the nation’s credit rating was downgraded for the first time in its history. If both sides maintain their stands, we might very well see a repeat performance in February, except this time it could be worse. Among other atrocious consequences, the country could find itself in another recession.
With the House republicans refusing to play ball, the question becomes, how does the president prevent the nation from succumbing to another economic melt-down without giving into their irresponsible whims?
There have been a number of proposals from the democratic side of the aisle. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) suggested the minting of a $1 trillion platinum coin, against which the nation can continue to pay its obligations, rather than go into default next month. Others have urged the president to invoke the 14th Amendment, which states that “the validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned”, and order the Treasury to simply ignore the debt ceiling.
Both options have been dismissed by the Obama administration as either unfeasible or unconstitutiona,l with White house spokesman Jay Carney stating “This administration does not believe the 14th Amendment gives the president the power to ignore the debt ceiling.”
But there is another option which surprisingly, has not been mentioned, at least not in relation to the debt ceiling, and that is a presidential mandate. Having been elected to a second term, President Obama definitely has the right to claim the authority (mandate) given to him by the people, and do what he thinks is best for them, regardless of whether congress signs off on it or not.
Though it may sound risque, and perhaps farfetched, it wouldn’t be the first time that a sitting president has claimed a mandate and overrode Congress’s constitutional prerogatives. In fact there is a long history of U.S presidents asserting the authority given to them by the people to override an obstinate congress.
In July of 1832, Andrew Jackson, believing that the U.S bank was bad for the people, used his mandate and refused to renew the bank charter. Instead, against the will of congress, he withdrew all federal deposits from the institution and deposited them in smaller banks.
President Woodrow Wilson asserted the same claim, saying “The President is at liberty, both in law and conscience, to be as big a man as he can. His capacity will set the limit…”
During the great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt claimed a mandate from the people to pass his vision of the New Deal.
Lyndon B Johnson saw his victory in 1964 as a direct mandate from the people and used it to pass Medicare, Medicaid, and immigration reform, through a congress that was not always receptive to these changes.
Both Richard Nixon in 1972 and Ronald Reagan in 1982 claimed that their victories were a direct mandate from the people and used it to push through their agendas.
President Obama also has that mandate and owes it to the American people to make sure the nation doesn’t take a nose dive into another recession, regardless of what congress has to say about it. He has the go-ahead and the authority, given to him by the people. Not initiating it will be underestimating the severity of what’s at stake: the lives of the American people. That is simply unacceptable.
Photo credit: AP (July 25, 2012: President Obama addresses the National Urban League convention in New Orleans.)