Constitution Warrior

Furthering the Cause of Anti-Federalism

The Debt Ceiling and Presidential Power

Excellent Article on the Debt Ceiling and Presidential Power.

I am an Originalist but in an Anti-Federalist Sense. I believe the Constitution is not really up for interpretation. The Framers made clear and concise arguments in the various notes of the Convention Debates, Federalist Papers and the Anti-Federalist Papers. Any definitions of phrases or words are to be defined in the vernacular of the time.

I use Noah Webster’s American Dictionary of the English Language First edition 1828. Webster started putting together this Dictionary in 1807 and published it in 1828.


The Debt Ceiling and Presidential Power
Michael Ramsey

The New York Times’ Room for Debate asks Can Obama Ignore the Debt Ceiling?, with contributions from Eric Posner (Chicago), Elizabeth Price Foley (Florida International), Akhil Amar (Yale), Dorothy Brown (Emory), James Galbraith (Texas — Economics), and Thomas Geoghegan. (Thanks to Micahel Perry for the pointer).

I think Professor Foley basically has it right:

Under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, Congress has the power to “borrow money on the credit of the United States.” This power is exclusive; it cannot be exercised by the other branches of government.

If Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling, the president has no authority to go around the legislature because he thinks raising the ceiling is desirable. Such an act would violate the Constitution’s separation of powers. The president can no more authorize additional borrowing than he can impose new taxes, regulate commerce or exercise any other power granted only to Congress.

She suggests, though, that Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment (“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law … shall not be questioned”) imposes some limits:

The “debt” that “shall not be questioned” under Section 4 thus refers only to bonds and similar debt instruments. … [Thus], there can be no reneging on U.S. “debt” because of Section 4. But there is little risk of such a debt default occurring, simply because the federal government has more than sufficient tax revenue — more than $200 billion per month — to service existing “debt” to creditors.


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