The Debt Ceiling and the Constitution

July 13, 2011

Email Correspondence between myself and a friend; Read from bottom:


Email sent by me: Jul 13 11:51 PM

Just a typo. I find I’m doing that more and more these days. I just reread my first email and I substituted Arizona for Arkansas at one point.

Email sent by friend: Jul 13, 2011 10:41:18 PM

Good stuff!

(Did you mean hearse, or was that an unintentional-yet-entertaining typo?)


Email sent by me: July 13, 2011, 5:43 PM

“There appears to be no basis in the legislative history, or arguably in the structure of the Constitution itself, that can support an executive power to borrow funds,” the research service said in the report, which was released to several congressional offices this week and was reviewed by The Washington Times.

White House rules out Constitutional end-around Congress:

I wished I had been able to introduce this into yesterday’s conversation. It turns out the Executive Branch does not have the power to borrow money. That power resides in the House. It’s the first power listed after taxes.
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

Not only that but in Section 9 of Article 1 specifices the Treasury of the United States can’t spend money unless it’s authorized by law. This explains why we have an annual appropriations cycle. This lets the Treasury know what it can spend money on.

“No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.”

So, at the end of the day, Congress has to authorize via law the Executive Branch to borrow money as well as to spend it. Obama can veto the legislation, but doing so doesn’t grant the Treasury the power to go borrow the money without legislation. If Congress does nothing, then the Executive branch has a choice to make as to who shall be paid. The only payment that appears to be mandated is paying off the debt. So, someone else is going to have to do without for awhile.

I suppose Congress could pass a law that in this specific circumstance could rank who gets paid first, but that would be putting the cart before the hurse.



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