The US Senate Can Make Obama Into Nero
Anyone who is not in power in American politics fears the potential havoc that could be wrecked by an Imperial Presidency. Simply by declaring “I am the decider,” George W. Bush put the fear of Dog Almighty into the Godless left. “I won.” Had a similarly galvanizing effect on Conservative opposition to Barack Obama in the United States.
While logical people, both Right and Left, fear the potential impact of the hyper-powered Commander-In-Chief, no US President has quite gotten to the point of declaring themselves “Dominus et Deus.” Even FDR turned back at the precipice after threatening to pack a recalcitrant US Supreme Court who thwarted his objectives in 1935 and 1936. By stopping short of so doing, FDR also stopped short of grievously undermining the American Republic.
But what is Barack Obama supposed to do if the US Senate forcibly and determinably neglects its duties? What is a President supposed to do if another branch of the government goes Albert Haynesworth and quits in the middle of the 3rd Quarter? With the United States Senate in the vastly futile hands of Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, we in America may be about to find this out the hard way.
The United States Senate has not passed a Federal Budget since FY 2009. It has hedged this by passing continuing resolutions and stop-gap measures, but it has not lived up to its duty and passed an actual budget. The United States Constitution charges the House of Representatives with originating all legislation appropriating monies. As we’ve seen this FY, that is necessary, but not sufficient to actually fund the government.
The United States Senate must pass a Federal Budget as well and then reconcile said budget with the House of Representatives before well-programmed appropriations bills can be presented for Presidential signature. Assuming no budget is forthcoming, and that no continuing resolution can be passed, a United States President has only limited and short-term options to keep things afloat by constitutionally valid means.
By not budgeting for over 2 years, the United States Senate has created a vacuum of political power. This both tempts and requires the executive branch to assume non-standard powers that could potentially lie beyond the scope of its prerogatives under The US Constitution. Making the potentially errant assumption that Barack Obama is a decent enough man to care whether Social Security checks aren’t rubberized, the man may well be forced to do something patently illegal to forestall this unfortunate occurrence.
A rather unique and spurious interpretation of the 14th Amendment challenges the legal validity of the current debt ceiling. It states that the President is required to spend what he has to avoid default. By similar logical reasoning, I could be required to pay off my mortgage and credit cards after I am no longer solvent. Of course, no vendor can be required to accept either my payments, or those of Sam’s Government. Who knows if they will?
A second way of allowing the US Senate to continue vacationing near The Smithsonian Museum on the taxpayer dime has been floated by Senate Minority “Leader” Mitch McConnell. Rich Lowry describes the manner in which the legislative branch intends to amend the US Constitution to collect the same pay for far less taxing professional responsibility.
The initial legislation would authorize the President to submit a request to Congress asking to increase the debt limit by $700 billion, and would require submission of a plan to reduce spending by a greater amount. Upon receipt of the President’s request, the debt limit would be provisionally increased by $100 billion to provide breathing room and avert an August 2nd default.
We don’t quite have “Peas in our time” yet. McConnell continues reenacting Glorious Dunkirk below.
Within three days of the President’s request, it would be in order for the House and Senate to introduce a joint resolution disapproving of the President’s request. Under expedited consideration of the Resolution of Disapproval, the resolution would be placed directly on the Senate calendar; the Motion to Proceed to the resolution would be privileged; there would be 10 hours of debate and passage would require a simple majority.
If either chamber defeats the resolution, the remaining $600 billion increase would be allowed. If both chambers pass the resolution, it would be sent to the President for a veto or signature. If vetoed, debate on an override would be limited to one hour. If the veto is overridden (which would require a 2/3 vote) in both chambers, then the request would be denied and the provisional $100 billion increase revoked.
So there is no statistical likelihood that any US President will ever fail to get a debt ceiling increase. McConnell has just proposed the termination of the debt ceiling as a meaningful or legitimate limit to Federal Expenditures. He does this after the legislative body that he sits in made this a problem by failing to pass a budget for 800 days.
This tells me that he, Charles Schumer and Harry Reid would all three vastly prefer that the US Senate not have any professional responsibility for how the US Government spends its money. Given that an entire body of Congress is striving manfully to disavow its charged Constitutional responsibility, can the POTUS avoid assuming greater executive powers to avert disaster? Gutless legislative stewardship like that displayed under Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell’s tenures as leaders is one of the many factors that helped tyrants like Nero rule the entire Mediterrainean Basin by despotic fiat.