The Imperial Presidency, Round #43917

So Senator Mitch McConnell has released a “solution” to the debt ceiling crisis. Jason has already jumped on this topic, but I feel the need to add my own two cents. For me, the crucial portion of this non-solution is that it gives additional power to the White House, and perpetuates a seeming tradition of Congress abdicating responsibility that we’ve seen over the past decade.

The entire deal punts the debt and spending over to the President. Essentially, he decides to raise the debt limit. While Congress can pass a “bill of disapproval” with a two-thirds majority, the President can simply veto, which would then require a 2/3 vote to override. The plan would also require the President to make spending cuts roughly equal to the increase in the debt limit (as I understand it.) Yet there is no enforcement mechanism that I can see to ensure he does so. What would Congress do if he raised the debt limit with no corresponding cut in spending? Stamp their feet? It might be all they can do.

Haven’t we seen enough power consolidated in the Oval Office yet?

I mean, the President can assassinate people with a drone without so much as a whoopsie-daisy; have anyone imprisoned on suspicion of terrorism and interrogated; can have a lovely jaunt off to war and only send Congress a politely-worded letter; formulate budgets and tax policy while merely requesting Congressional approval; through executive agencies and department make and enforce law without a vote; and now we’re going to give him the power to unilaterally raise the debt limit with requirements that are so wishy-washy they make Natty Light look good?

Maybe it’s me here, operating with a faulty, incomplete perspective. I always thought it was Congress’ duty to set policy and make laws, to create and develop taxes, to essentially set the direction. The president’s function was to carry it out, to administer the daily operations of the federal government, check the balances, ensure they didn’t run out of money, in addition to leading the military during a time of war—mostly by organizing national defense if we were invaded—and negotiating treaties with other countries, which would have to be ratified by the Senate. (Now, not even that is done all that often anymore; they get around it by using “memorandum of understanding.” Pfft.)

Perhaps I’m wrong for thinking this way, for thinking that “checks and balances” were meant to be real, concrete barriers to consolidation of power. Perhaps it really is that the president sets and directs policy, and Congress is meant to rubber stamp his decisions. But then why have a Congress at all? Why don’t we just get rid of them and save the millions spent on their paychecks, their staff paychecks, their junkets, their food, their oversized chairs. (Though if those ever go up for auction, I want one.)

Folks, if this is our “solution” to the debt limit debate, then we should just junk Congress. Clearly, they are incapable of performing their duty, and are extraneous. We could save a lot of money—not enough to stave off default, but hey, it’d be something. Let’s put our trust in one man—no, wait. Let’s put our trust in one woman, that gender seems to know about running things better than we ever could. Clearly, it would be more efficient.


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