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Does Article I, section 8 mean anything anymore?

In the Spring of 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had it in his mind that the United States should join World War II.  The Allies path forward looked bleak and the country certainly had to be prepared for a worst case scenario.  But, whether war was imminent or not, Roosevelt was wise to build America’s forces.  Peace through strength at its finest.  Roosevelt was about to sell his plan to the American people.

Still reeling through the Depression, the President addressed a divided Congress.  He laid out his plan to build up America’s forces and to prepare for possible war.  It was the celebrity aviator, Charles Lindbergh, who took the lead in criticizing the President’s ideas.  He argued that the President was trying to push us closer to war.  Senator Bennett Clark (R-MO) stated, “we have spent in excess of $6 Billion on building up the Army and the Navy, and now we are told that we are pitifully unprepared simply because an emergency has developed abroad, are we going to turn over lump sums to the same outfit of bunglers that apparently wasted the $6 Billion?”

But Roosevelt had taken his vision to the American people, and before the week was out, the United States Congress voted to raise the debt ceiling, authorizing more borrowing to prepare for what was coming. 

Say what you will about FDR, but on the debt ceiling debate, he won over public opinion.

What worries me about the contemporary Democrat party is that many are encouraging President Obama to bypass the Congress in order to mint his own currency to pay off the debt with.  Nancy Pelosi and other national Democrat leaders have joined the growing chorus.   

The argument goes like this, because the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution states, “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law . . . shall not be questioned” the President has inherent powers to prevent a default.  Thus Democrats argue that the representatives of the people of the United States are prevented from discussing future borrowing when raising the debt ceiling by the Fourteenth Amendment.  They argue that the Executive branch should bypass the legislature and their powers granted under Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.

Section 8 plainly states:

“The Congress shall have Power to [] pay the Debts[,] to borrow Money on the credit of the United States[,] to coin Money [and to] regulate [its] value.”

So succinctly, any move by Democrats to unilaterally pay debts, borrow money or coin new money without the express consent of Congress would be unconstitutional.  Remember when Democrats disregarded the Senate rules on Reconciliation to pass their healthcare bill?

Well this is the sequel, only this time it isn’t merely rules, it is Article 1 of the Constitution.      

As far as the 14th Amendment is concerned, no one in the House is questioning the validity of the public debt.  They are simply stating that before we can move forward on borrowing more we must have a responsible plan to prevent it from happening again.

And the accusation that Congress is the one that borrowed it, so Congress must approve of the debt ceiling?  Yes and no. 

Congress did borrow it.  But over 80 new members were sworn in last week and Democrats controlled Congress two years and a week ago.  So, while it may be Congress per se, it isn’t “the same Congress.”  Either way, they will pay it. 

There isn’t a soul in America that believes that the House won’t pass a bill meeting our obligations.  The question is how we get there.  This President is the most fiscally irresponsible president in our history and it is the legislature’s DUTY to check him.

To Mr. Obama’s credit, he has publicly stated that he will not bypass Congress in seeking to raise the debt ceiling.  But he also said that he wouldn’t go for guns, restrict your healthcare choices or raise your taxes (mine went up 2% this week), so you can take that for what it’s worth.

But as far as the Constitution is concerned, all of the financial decisions to be made in the next eight weeks lie with the House of Representatives. 

Obama should, like President Roosevelt, make his case to the American people.  If he can win that argument, then Congress will follow suit.  But if he fails, than he should allow Congress to lead on this issue, as the law requires.

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