Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Bartlett: The Constitution Grants the Power to the President to Dictate the Debt Ceiling, Unilaterally

I have commented below on the logic of Michael Tomasky on the U.S. government debt, but not to be ignored is Tomasky bringing to the surface the latest view of Bruce Bartlett:
Last Thursday, economist Bruce Bartlett gave testimony to the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee of the House. The testimony received some attention for the sections in which Bartlett, an erstwhile conservative but defiant anti-crackpot, asserted that the president could invoke Section 4 of the 14th Amendment in order to raise the limit unilaterally.
Got that? No need to have Congressional approval to raise the debt ceiling of the United States government. The President can do so unilaterally, says Bartlett. It's all in the Constitution, Section 4 of the 14th Amendment.

Here is section 4 of the 14th Amendment:
4. 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.
Damn, I just don't know how I missed the above section where it says: "The President has sole authority to raise the debt limit of the United States. Congressional consent not required."

UPDATE: Dave08 in the comments points to Section 5 of the Amendment:
5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
and, of course as Ryan points out, Article 1 Section 8 of the Constitution states:
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;
 Note, in Tomasky's world view, Bartlett's reading of the Constitution is the "erstwhile conservative but defiant anti-crackpot" stance. Oh yeah, it's so non-crackpot, that the President has come out and publicly stated that he doesn't want to go anywhere near Bartlet's theory:
There are some people who say that under the Constitution, it's unconstitutional for Congress not to allow Treasury to pay its bills, and are suggesting that this should be challenged under the Constitution. I don't think we should even get to the constitutional issue. Congress has a responsibility to make sure we pay our bills. We've always paid them in the past
Please forgive me for not putting up any more posts tonight. I'm sure somewhere in the Constitution it says I am to be delivered daily, by topless Miss America contestants, grapes, caviar and champagne. It's going to take a careful Bartlett style reading of the Constitution, but I just know I'll find the section before day break.


  1. Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

    I love how everyone glosses over the very next section. Pretty sure it SPECIFICALLY says 'Congress'. Now to some idiots you might have to point to where it says the President is not a member of Congress.

  2. I suspect that meant gramps would get a wad of cash for getting his ass shot up by the Germans, not bailing out German(and French and English and.........) Banksters.

  3. Bartlett's argument is idiotic. Article I, § 8 of the Constitution specifically grants Congress the power to "Pay the Debts . . . of the United States" and "To Borrow money on the credit of the United States." So to say the 14th Amendment somehow grants the President power to usurp a power specifically delegated to Congress makes no sense. It's like arguing that Congress can appoint a Supreme Court justice if the President fails to do so or that it's ok for the Supreme Court to command the military if it thinks the President is violating a constitutional provision.

  4. America has a Caesar.

    The Constitution says, what Caesar says it says.

    If a patrician says the Constitution means something that it clearly does not, it's obvious the patrician is correct, unless the Caesar says otherwise.

    Also, The Emperor has a fine set of clothes.

  5. Wenzel, I think you should check out the general welfare clause. It might be in there.

  6. Anon@11:29 I agree with you which is why I'm worried about this issue.
    Doesn't matter what the Constitution says as long as The Emperor gets one of his flunkies to write a "legal finding" that it is constitutional, then it is constitutional.