The debt limit exists for a simple reason: to assure that public debt isn’t recklessly piled up without Congress periodically acknowledging it and addressing the spending patterns that are causing it. If a debt limit increase is supposed to be automatic, as the President suggests, there really is no purpose to it.
A new dimension has now appeared in this discussion. Unlike every one of his predecessors, this President has vowed that unless Congress unconditionally raises the debt limit, the United States will default on its sovereign debt.
The President has been ruthless and vindictive in the way he has handled the shutdown, refusing House leadership’s offers along the way. I now believe that this President would willfully act to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States unless the Congress acquiesces to all of his demands. His every statement and action is consistent with this conclusion.
If the Republicans acquiesce, the immediate crisis will quickly vanish, credit markets will calm and public life will return to other matters. But a fundamental element of our Constitution will have been destroyed and a perilous era will have begun.
The power of the purse will have shifted from the representatives of the people to the executive, in which the President sets spending levels and vetoes any bill falling short of his demands. Whenever a deadline approaches, one house can simply refuse to negotiate with the other until Congress is faced with the Hobson’s choice of a shut-down or a default.
The nation’s spending will again dangerously accelerate, the deficit will again rapidly widen, and the economic prosperity of the nation will continue to slowly bleed away.
This impasse may have started as a dispute over a collapsing health program but it has now taken on the dimensions of a constitutional crisis.
This past weekend in Washington, a group of America’s veterans rose up to take a stand against these constitutional usurpations. I believe the salvation of our nation now depends on the American people joining them.