As debt ceiling negotiations continue to stall out, in large part because a block of Republicans have made it their mission to force a default, the cries from the left for President Obama to use the “constitutional option” and invoke the 14th Amendment to resolve this contrived crisis have amplified. But there’s at least one good argument that he is already doing so.
The President has publicly stated that he does not plan on using the power granted to the executive via the 14th Amendment to resolve the debt ceiling crisis. And as to be expected, many progressives took this statement to mean the President would instead agree to massive benefit cuts or other capitulations. I think it is time everyone take a breath.
For starters, the President is giving Congress the opportunity to lead, or not lead as the case may be. He has to. Resolving this issue is at first a Congressional responsibility. He can push and he can prod, but he cant write a bill and send it to them for passage.
Anyone doubting the extent of that leadership should listen to today’s speech.
Also, President Obama has assured bond holders that there will not be a default. How can he make such a promise without keeping the 14th Amendment option alive? If the vacuum of leadership in the House and the myopia of the Senate really do fail to pass a bill that the President can sign, then prioritizing bondholder payments is only possible because of the 14th Amendment.
Even if Congress cannot be persuaded that following a government shutdown and market meltdown raising the ceiling is a global economic imperative President Obama can still act. But for now, those emergency powers can’t be executed because we simply have not gone over the cliff. Yet.
In “The Audacity of Hope” President Obama described his admiration for President Lincoln and, given recent events, that allegiance seems especially fitting. Like President Lincoln, President Obama faces a Congress in revolt, and like President Lincoln, President Obama may be called on to take bold acts of executive leadership that may be immediately unpopular but will prove to be historically prudent.
Photo from tracyo via flickr.