Unless the world ends or Donald Trump starts telling the truth, neither of which is likely to happen between now and publishing, the biggest American political story of the week just ended is the debt ceiling deal. (Not budget, President Biden. I fully support you but you used the incorrect terminology in Friday’s Oval Office address.)
Now that the disaster was averted let me address the core problem.
I won’t get into much of the details of the compromise deal worked out to avert a default of the federal government. Like any compromise there are parts of it I like and others I despise. My only comment will be that I hope those who die because of it – and that is not hyperbole! – get some solace from the fact that they died in order to preserve tax advantages for people who need passports to visit their money.
I’m still a bit confused why Biden negotiated with Speaker Kevin McCarthy who obviously couldn’t deliver the needed votes to get the bill passed in the House. He only delivered 149 votes which was far short of the needed majority. In fact, the Democratic House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries delivered the remaining 165 of the 314 aye votes. Think about that for a minute. Jeffries delivered 16 more votes than McCarthy did. Keep in mind the Democratic votes were what I call two handed votes; one to vote aye and the other to hold your nose while doing so.
The debt ceiling was suspended for two year which means it won’t come up until the 118th Congress is history and the 119th is seated. It’s early and my predictions may well change, but it appears the Democrats can flip the House back to their control and (and this part will be more challenging) still maintain control of the Senate.
Assuming that happens and Biden is reelected what they need to do is eliminate the debt ceiling period. Only one other advanced democracy has a debt ceiling (Denmark). It actually serves no useful purpose in that the underlying debts have already been approved by Congress. The debt ceiling was established in 1917 by statute and can simply be eliminated by the same. Good luck doing that in this Congress but if the makeup of the 119th is more patriotic and less partisan (also I might add less economically ignorant) it should be achievable.
One of the other solutions tossed around in the recent debate is the 14th Amendment solution. It would certainly appear that the debt ceiling is in direct conflict with the 14th Amendment which is part of the Constitution and therefore unconstitutional. That has never been challenged and with today’s Court I have no idea what “logic” they might use to affirm the debt ceiling if the radical right wing (I have too much respect for conservatism to call them conservatives) majority saw political advantage, albeit possibly temporary, in such a ruling. The Constitution supersedes statute and as an interesting, albeit irrelevant, side note, the 14th Amendment (1868) also predates the debt ceiling anyway.
In any event the debt ceiling is unnecessary and potentially harmful. The real solution is not a kick-the-can patch but to just eliminate it. My question is whether the next Congress will have the wisdom, patriotism and courage to do so. The current version certainly lacks a sufficient amount of those qualities.
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