No 14<sup>th</sup> Amendment Remedy
President Obama (or his Press Secretary, anyway) announced yesterday that the 14th Amendment Remedy to the debt ceiling standoff is “not available” to use.
So where does that leave us? Let’s look at the players, and then we can talk about possible next steps.
House Speaker John Boehner
Boehner has the Ohio Two-Step, which raises the debt ceiling by $1 trillion, cuts spending by $1.2 trillion, and sets up a Congressional commission to come up with an additional $1.8 trillion in cuts by the end of November. The tacit part of the Ohio Two-Step is a reopened debate over the debt ceiling in November as well, since the debt ceiling increase would run out at that time.
The Tea Party and other across-the-board opponents of increasing the debt ceiling have already made clear their opposition to the plan. Unsurprisingly, so have the Democrats. Without either most Tea Partiers or some Democrats (or some extremely unlikely combination of the two), the bill cannot pass the House.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
Reid’s plan has $2.7 trillion in spending cuts, with no tax increases. In case anyone has forgotten (it’s sure not evident in this plan), Reid is a Democrat. And the bill even got Obama’s endorsement. So why isn’t this a shoo-in?
First of all, in case anyone has forgotten, Reid is a Democrat. And the bill even got Obama’s endorsement. Those two reasons alone guarantee near-unanimous opposition by Republicans in the House. But then there’s the other reason…it raises the debt ceiling by enough to prevent this issue from recurring before the 2012 election. That makes it a non-starter with Republicans, who wish to have it front and center in the political sphere in the summer of 2012.
Besides the obvious reason that Republicans believe it benefits them politically to have the debt ceiling as the main issue this time next year, they recognize that it has the added bonus of distracting Obama from the campaign trail if he’s simply trying to keep the lights on. Or he can focus on campaigning while Republicans force a default, and bludgeon Obama for campaigning distracting him from such an important issue.
Aside from Michele Bachmann (R-MN), none of the leading Republican candidates for President have any particular involvement in the debt ceiling debate, so this gives a time advantage to them. As an added bonus, whatever Obama does, they can campaign on the opposite position, without having to vote on anything that might come back to bite them later.
President Barack Obama
Obama has been playing the grownup in the room on TV, but he’s been relatively light on specifics. In many ways, this is a sensible approach for him to take. Anything he proposes is instantly opposed by House Republicans, regardless of the content. So why make proposals, when the very act of making them removes them from the realm of House passage?
It’s unclear to me whether denying the 14th Amendment Remedy is a head fake. Certainly, had he made it clear that he was willing to use that out, House Republicans would have cover for taking no action and then blaming the resultant debt increase on the President. Taking the Constitutional Option off the table puts the onus back on the House. But it’s hard to tell if he’d really allow the default to happen.
The Tea Party
For the moment, the Tea Party has an outsized influence over the process. Collectively, they have taken the stance that they will not allow the debt ceiling to be raised under any circumstances. Many of them consider repercussions of a debt default to be as outlandish as global warming or evolution, all of which were created by leftist Communists whose sole desire is to enslave humanity. As such, refusing to increase the debt ceiling is doing a great service to humanity.
There are some interesting outcomes that could arise. My favorite is an alliance between House Republicans and House Democrats. Given the chasm in DW-NOMINATE scores between the most conservative Democrat and the most liberal Republican, I’m unsure if this is realistic, though. On the other hand, take a look at the distributions of the 111th and 112th House members.
Note how there is a significant peak at about +0.3. That is closer to many Democrats than it is to that Tea Party mode around +0.9. Perhaps the larger group of Democrats in the –0.2 “shelf” could help get past the Tea Party impasse.
If that were to happen, though, I’d expect that to be the final straw for the Tea Party, which would attempt to replace all existing Republicans with DW-NOMINATE candidates around +0.9. That would almost certainly fail, and the party would formally splinter.
But I’m dreaming, mostly.
Another possible outcome would be a failure to raise the debt ceiling, creating a de-facto government shutdown à la 1995. Could Obama come out a winner in this one, as Bill Clinton did in 1995? Perhaps, but it’s hardly a given.
Or Obama could unilaterally raise the ceiling, using the 14th Amendment Remedy, and dare the Supreme Court to deny him that right. The House would probably at least attempt to impeach him, but it’s almost certain that the Senate wouldn’t convict. So it would be yet another repeat of a Clinton saga. This one, however, could cost him reëlection, if the voters believe he made the wrong choice.
None of the available options create any real winners. The only question before us is who loses the most. This makes the whole affair a sad chapter in American history.
So what path do you think is most likely? What path do you think is the best option? Did I miss a possible outcome?
- The 14th Amendment illusion (salon.com)
- Some see way out of debt impasse in provision of 14th Amendment (boston.com)
- The Debt Limit Games (socyberty.com)
- Try Boehner and Cantor for Treason? What about Obama? (skydancingblog.com)
- Obama warns of Made-in-D.C. disaster (business.financialpost.com)
- Amid dueling debt plans, Obama to address nation Monday (business.financialpost.com)
- Caught Between Obama and the Tea Partyers, Boehner Faints. Dissolve to 14th Amendment? (themoderatevoice.com)
- U.S. debt deadlock stretches on (business.financialpost.com)
- Was Obama’s debt ceiling speech a game-changer? (politico.com)
- Bill Clinton: I Would Use 14th Amendment To Raise The Debt Ceiling (blogs.abcnews.com)
- Wiggle Room That They Don’t Actually Want (whodoes.wordpress.com)
- Bill Clinton Deals President Obama A Fourteenth Amendment Wild Card (mediaite.com)
- Bill Clinton: I’d use 14th amendment (kaystreet.wordpress.com)
- 14th Amendment: If Obama Opted For Constitutional Option, Legal Challenge Would Be Hard (huffingtonpost.com)