Tyrannical Disregard Meets the Debt Ceiling - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Tyrannical Disregard Meets the Debt Ceiling
President Joe Biden (The White House)

Joe Cunningham, an occasional fellow contributor at my site The Hayride, had an incisive piece at RedState on Monday that discussed the latest Team Biden gambit in the deepening fight over the debt ceiling. It seems that the latest trial balloon being floated is that the administration should attempt to use the 14th Amendment as a legal crutch for declaring that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional. Joe is no more impressed than I am with that as a tactic:

But recently, a new talking point has emerged among Democrats, reporters, and the folks working in the Biden administration: Invoke the 14th Amendment to bypass Congress entirely on the debt ceiling.

It’s a risky strategy and one that Biden has dodged when questioned about it, as my colleague Bonchie pointed out.

The 14th Amendment strategy, as theorized by “legal experts” (a term that has lost all meaning in recent years), is as simple as declaring that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional because it is incompatible with the public debt section of the 14th Amendment.

The provision in the 14th Amendment that they are attempting to use is Section 4, which reads:

The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.

To say that this is a slender reed on which to build a claim that there should be no debt ceiling would be more than generous. “Public debt” in the 14th Amendment refers to debt already accumulated, not debt Joe Biden and the people who handle him would like to run up. The idea that the limits to future debt imposed by law in the form of a debt ceiling would somehow be a repudiation of current debt is one of the stupidest arguments you’ll ever hear, especially since the taking on of infinite amounts of more debt is the surest possible way to cement the likelihood that the current debt will be repudiated. This is the position Team Biden wants to take.

There’s a certain Cleavon Little/Blazing Saddles reference to make here. Perhaps Team Biden thinks it’s up against the Johnsons of Rock Ridge in the person of Kevin McCarthy. One might pray McCarthy and his team are made of sharper stuff.

After all, as Cunningham noted, everything about the current state of the debt ceiling fight as Team Biden is presenting it is a non sequitur:

The problem for the White House is that the Republican Party has already passed a bill to raise the debt ceiling. It is the White House and the Democratic Party who have refused to negotiate so far. That they would consider constitutionally dubious ploys in order to get their way is a sign that they are not serious about any substantive reforms that bring the country away from constant crisis and political brinksmanship.

The lengths that they are going to here have no real fiscal or economic value. This is purely a political calculation to deprive the Republican Party of any semblance of a win. They are considering invoking the 14th Amendment to call the debt ceiling unconstitutional solely so that Kevin McCarthy and the GOP don’t walk away with anything they want. In the process, what they would be doing is violating the power of the purse that the House of Representatives has when it comes to government spending.

In other words, their 14th Amendment strategy is not only dubious, but it will also infringe on the powers of Congress in a way that’s far more unconstitutional than the debt ceiling could ever be.

And that is a pretty big problem for the Democrats, who are spending all of their political energy calling the Republicans the “extreme” party. Rather than negotiate, they will themselves take an absurd, unconstitutional position and expose themselves as just as bad — if not worse.

I come back to this often when talking about Biden — and, as is my custom, when I talk about Joe Biden, I mean the corporate Joe Biden: the sum of his handlers, staffers, and the barely visible arm reaching from the Kalorama section of D.C. up through the nether regions of his administration to control him. Namely, that this administration doesn’t operate like any other in American history.

There’s a sort of de novo malign neglect of the American people and our preferences at work — or, if you prefer, a tyrannical disregard. Previous presidential administrations would look at a plan to, say, dole out bonuses to people with bad credit scores when taking out mortgages while penalizing those with good credit, and, whatever Marxist fetishes they might have, they’d blanch at the potential political ramifications of engaging in such a risky operation.

Not these guys. They just run with those gambits.

This 14th Amendment caper surfaces just as an ABC News/Washington Post poll dropped over the weekend that was so bad that it would paralyze a previous administration:

Biden’s approval rating has also slipped to a new low in this poll, down to 36 percent—the lowest ever recorded for him by the Washington Post and ABC News since he took the White House.

“Biden’s overall job approval rating stands at 36 percent, down from 42 percent in February and about the same as the previous low of 37 percent in a Post-ABC poll conducted in early 2022,” the Washington Post’s Dan Balz, Scott Clement, and Emily Guskin wrote of the poll. “His disapproval stands at 56 percent, including 47 percent who disapprove ‘strongly.’ Other recent polls have pegged Biden’s approval in the low 40s without a decline in recent months.”

The approval rating issues are serious for Biden among several key demographics as well. “Biden’s approval rating is underwater among a slew of groups that supported him by wide margins in 2020,” the Post reporters wrote. “He stands at 26 percent approval among Americans under age 30, 42 percent among non-White adults, 41 percent among urban residents and 46 percent of those with no religious affiliation. Among independents who voted for Biden in 2020, 57 percent approve while 30 percent disapprove. Among independents who voted for Trump, 96 percent disapprove.”

A majority of respondents who are Democrats or lean Democrat, too, believe Democrats should nominate someone other than Biden for the 2024 presidential election. The poll asked people who leaned Democrat this question: “Would you like the Democratic Party to nominate Biden to run for a second term as president in 2024, or would you like the Democratic Party to nominate someone other than Biden as its candidate for president?” A majority, 58 percent, said they wanted someone else. Only 36 percent said they wanted Democrats to nominate Biden, and 6 percent said they had no opinion.

Those are bracing numbers, but the administration isn’t braced at all. Here was White House spokeslesbian Queen Karine Jean-Pierre talking about the debt limit on Monday:

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre claimed on Monday that House Republicans are “manufacturing” a debt limit crisis after the House passed a bill to increase the debt limit to avoid default.

One day before President Joe Biden will sit down with congressional leaders to have a conversation about the debt limit, Jean-Pierre claimed Republicans were manufacturing a debt limit crisis by drawing the White House into negotiations.

“There shouldn’t be negotiations on the debt limit,” she told reporters during a White House press briefing. “This is something that they [Congress] should get to regular order and get to work on. We should not have House Republicans manufacturing a crisis.”

It’s bizarre because, as Cunningham noted, there already is a measure to increase the debt ceiling that was passed by the House. This is explicitly the Senate’s problem, which means that it’s Chuck Schumer’s problem, which means that it’s Joe Biden’s problem. And the typical way that things like this get handled is that the Senate passes an amended version of the House debt ceiling bill that strips out all of the spending cuts, and then they have this fight in a conference committee.

But the Democrats can’t do it because Schumer and his people won’t consent to any spending cuts at all, much less the rather moderate half-trillion dollars a year that the House GOP passed, much if not most of which is profligate waste crowded into last year’s idiotic “Inflation Reduction Act” in a lame-duck session. And without conceding the principle that spending cuts should accompany debt limit increases, they can’t get any Republican votes in the Senate. Seeing as Schumer can’t count on Joe Manchin or Kyrsten Sinema to vote for a “clean” debt limit increase (though if your author had to bet, it would be that both would ultimately come aboard), and Dianne Feinstein is still convalescing from a bout with … [checks notes] … shingles back in California, right now there isn’t much he can pass without some GOP help.

Blaming McCarthy when your own house is in disarray and the public knows it? The rules of political gravity are not with you, Joe.

But it simply does not matter to these guys. They’re going to walk through that minefield blindfolded with snowshoes on, and they couldn’t care less if their own pundits get a case of the willies over the exercise.

Just like they’re embracing some 10,000 illegal migrants a day while America’s cities slowly (or not-so-slowly, in the case of El Paso and others closer to the border) turn into homeless camps. Or like they’re prioritizing transgenderism in every venue they can while the public grows increasingly disgusted. Or like they’re refusing to offer even a fig leaf of an explanation as the House Oversight Committee builds the case that Biden took bribes from foreign powers in return for making or influencing American policy. Or like they’re now pivoting to draconian crackdowns on … [checks notes] … dishwashers as the economy sinks into recession.

Not to mention the nonstop, nonsensical attacks on the Supreme Court that are naked attempts at intimidating the justices in advance of a couple of decisions that will likely end the deference to federal regulators established in the 1984 Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council case, which would represent an even more revolutionary shift in American politics than the Dobbs case. Most people might not get that, but tearing down the Supreme Court isn’t a particularly mainstream thing to do regardless of the motive behind it.

What you know about political reality from experience, at least up until a few years ago, would tell you that these things are suicidally stupid, and that nobody who could possibly be elected nationally could choose to do them.

But Team Biden doesn’t operate the way you’re accustomed to. It doesn’t make the calculations an American political party does.

It functions more like the Chinese Communist Party, or Venezuela’s Socialist Party. It functions like a party that doesn’t believe that there will be consequences for political mistakes because there cannot be.

What’s concerning, for every reason imaginable, is that this is born not of stupidity or arrogant ignorance, but rather of some knowledge that the rest of us don’t possess.

Biden’s negotiations with McCarthy, set to begin today, will tell us something about those concerns and how well-founded they might be.

Scott McKay
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Scott McKay is a contributing editor at The American Spectator  and publisher of the Hayride, which offers news and commentary on Louisiana and national politics, and RVIVR.com, a national political news aggregation and opinion site. Additionally, he's the author of the new book The Revivalist Manifesto: How Patriots Can Win The Next American Era, available at Amazon.com. He’s also a writer of fiction — check out his three Tales of Ardenia novels Animus, Perdition and Retribution at Amazon. Scott's other project is The Speakeasy, a free-speech social and news app with benefits - check it out here.
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