Patterico's Pontifications

1/7/2013

Pelosi: Obama Should Set His Own Debt Limit (With Bonus Rant At End!)

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:09 am

The latest inanity from Nancy Pelosi, as presented here by Ed Morrissey of Hot Air, weaves together several themes that have emerged during the budget battles: the Democrats’ dictatorial nature, their use of Congress as a scapegoat for overspending, their recharacterization of the debt ceiling debate as a debate over whether America will pay its debts, and their total ignorance of the Constitution.

Pelosi demonstrates the Democrats’ dictatorial leanings and disregard for the separation of powers by pronouncing that Obama should set his own debt ceiling:

[I]f I were president, I would use the 14th Amendment, which says that the United States will always be paying … I would just go do it, right.

This is in keeping with the Democrats’ desire to repeal the 22nd Amendment and let Obama serve forever. They simply want to arrogate all powers to the executive — and in perpetuity, it seems, or as long as Obama is in office, anyway — because they control the executive, while in the legislative branch they have to deal with that pesky House, which is always so annoying with all the talk of cutting spending and such.

Pelosi continues the theme, announced by Obama this past weekend, that we are where we are because Congress has spent irresponsibly — and that raising the debt ceiling isn’t about future debt, but paying our past debts:

But the Congress has incurred much of this debt. So what are we saying? We incurred it, but we’re not going to pay it? If you want to say we’re not going to do it so much in the future, well, that’s another thing, but you can’t say I’m not paying my past debts.

This is, of course, an echo of Obama’s remarks from this past weekend:

One thing I will not compromise over is whether or not Congress should pay the tab for a bill they’ve already racked up,” Obama said in his weekly address. “If Congress refuses to give the United States the ability to pay its bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy could be catastrophic.

This is, of course, remarkably dishonest. While is technically true that Congress’s participation is necessary to pass spending bills, the Obama/Pelosi claim airbrushes history by omitting the facts that Obama demanded a trillion dollar stimulus, and that he has piled up more debt in his four years ($6 trillion) than was ever thought possible for a single president in a single term.

The kicker to Morrissey’s post, of course, is Pelosi’a laughable ignorance of the Constitutional provision on which she claims to rely. Is it the Eleventh Amendment? The Fourteenth? Something something blah blah Constitution:

While it is tempting to end the post with a good laugh about Pelosi’s rank buffoonery, I want to make another pitch, as I did this past weekend, for Republicans not to make raising the debt ceiling the place where they take their stand.

They want to play the “no negotiation” game? Obama, Mr. Stimulus, wants to blame CONGRESS for overspending?

Fine. Here’s what you do.

You draw up a budget that has what you want. No more whining about what the other side will agree to. Just figure out what you want and then pass it.

And then approve nothing else. Whatsoever.

No continuing resolutions. Either pass our balanced budget, propose one of your own, or the government stops getting funded.

Yes, it’s risky electorally. But continuing the charade where nobody takes a stand is much riskier in much more important ways. And the last major publicized government shutdown, in the 1990s . . . wasn’t that a precursor to government surpluses? Does anybody believe the surpluses would not have happened without a Republican Congress willing to shut down the government on principle?

OK, then.

Here is the speech I would make if I were in Congress:

Recently, President Obama and Nancy Pelosi blamed Congress for racking up spending. And you know what? They’re right. Although the spending that got us in this mess was sought by presidents — first President Bush, then President Obama — it is ultimately here in the House that spending bills must originate. We are culpable for this debt crisis, just as they are. Because we went along.

I am taking the words of President Obama and Minority Leader Pelosi to heart. We are going to raise the debt ceiling, so that the government can continue to meet its past obligations in regular order. But now, we are going to step up and present a budget that is responsible. This new budget will not raise taxes any further than the increases that were requested by the Democrats earlier this year. But it will, for the first time, meet the same requirement that every responsible household has for its own budget: that there is enough money coming in to pay for the expenses we are incurring.

I don’t know if Americans realize that, under this president, we are now spending a trillion dollars every year more than we take in. I don’t know if people realize that our national debt has gone up $6 trillion under this president in four years. That’s more than the debt went up in 8 years of President Bush’s presidency.

This is a spending problem. You could impose a 100% tax rate on every millionaire in this country and it wouldn’t begin to pay off our $16 trillion debt. It would not close the gap. Only cutting spending will close the gap. And that is what we are doing today.

President Obama and Minority Leader Pelosi are right to blame Congress for overspending. Even though they asked for all that overspending, we gave it to them. Well, we’re not going to do it any more.

I want to stress that we are open to negotiation on how we pass a balanced budget. If President Obama wants to make a counterproposal that balances the budget in a different way, we will listen. But what we won’t do is consider any counterproposal that spends more money than we are taking in.

President Obama will say that balancing the budget hurts our ability to “invest” in various programs he thinks are important. “Investment,” of course, is the word he likes to use for “spending.” And we simply can’t afford to continue spending more than we take in, no matter how lofty or worthy the goals might sound.

If President Obama refuses to sign this budget, or propose an alternative that balances the budget for this year, then we will stop funding the government. The president and the media will say the Republicans are forcing a government shutdown, and I guess the polls say that the American public is going to blame us for it. I’d like to think y’all are smarter than that, but my colleagues and I are willing to take the political heat.

This is the moment. If not now, when?

This is a moral issue. By spending more on ourselves, we are raising taxes on our children. We are mortgaging their futures so we can spend too much today. That’s not right. Our children don’t have a vote. If somebody explained to them what is being done to their futures, they would probably stand up and scream: NO! But they can’t. So we have to speak for them.

Yes, taking that stand means Republicans might be blamed for shutting down the government, even though Democrats are the ones who refuse to pass a balanced budget. But that’s a risk we are willing to take. At a certain point, we all have to ask ourselves: why are we here? Why do we do this job? And it’s to make the country better.

But a nation that cannot get its financial house in order will crumble. Continuing this charade, ladies and gentlemen, is not why I was elected to the U.S. Congress.

Today, we are taking a stand. Today is the day that we say: we are only going to spend what we can afford, and no more.

Hey. A blogger can dream, can’t he?

55 Comments

  1. Of course, spending all this time crafting the statement that should be made will make it that much more painful to listen to the one that ends up actually getting made.

    Which will, of course, be a variant of: “we have resolved to tackle these important spending issues in [insert some date in the future here].”

    Comment by Patterico (8b3905) — 1/7/2013 @ 7:10 am

  2. Sigh.

    I met folks who say they can’t pay their current debts if they can’t get overdraft or another credit card. In my opinion, this is not what responsible people say when they are serious about paying down their debts. It’s what people say when they absolutely will not change their intention to spend more.

    It’s Obama and Pelosi who are making debt service optional by apparently subordinating it to their pet projects.

    Comment by Dustin (73fead) — 1/7/2013 @ 7:30 am

  3. I know it’s ‘over a hundred years old, but regardless;

    Article 1, Section 8 “Congress shall have Power… To borrow Money on the credit of the United States” and Article I, Section 9 “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law”.

    Now one could go the messy way and pass a constitutional amendment, but why bother right?

    Comment by narciso (3fec35) — 1/7/2013 @ 7:35 am

  4. narciso,

    A balanced budget amendment is the ONLY way we’ll fix this, IMO.

    Comment by Patterico (8b3905) — 1/7/2013 @ 7:37 am

  5. Our esteemed host wrote:

    Hey. A blogger can dream, can’t he?

    A dream like that probably required the use of recreational pharmaceuticals!

    Comment by The DEA Dana (3e4784) — 1/7/2013 @ 7:39 am

  6. The Republicans do have an advantage here. They went along with the fiscal cliff tax increase because, to not have done so, would have meant a much bigger, automatic tax increase, on everybody — something to which I was not opposed.

    But now, the fiscal cliff bill made the 2001/2003/2010 tax cuts for everybody but the most productive Americans permanment, so they are not facing another automatic tax increase again. However, the $110 billion sequester was just pushed back until March. If Congress does nothing, we get an automatic $110 billion spending cut, and I definitely support that! I might prefer making the cuts in other areas, but even where they are, at least they’ll be there.

    If the Republicans have any balls, we’ll get spending cuts. That, of course, is a really big “if.”

    Comment by The Dana who doesn't see this happening (3e4784) — 1/7/2013 @ 7:45 am

  7. Just use a $16,500,000,000,000 coin to pay off the debt and start all over.

    Comment by JD (5ed6bd) — 1/7/2013 @ 7:57 am

  8. But the Congress has incurred much of this debt. So what are we saying? We incurred it, but we’re not going to pay it? If you want to say we’re not going to do it so much in the future, well, that’s another thing, but you can’t say I’m not paying my past debts.

    This is, of course, an echo of Obama’s remarks from this past weekend:

    One thing I will not compromise over is whether or not Congress should pay the tab for a bill they’ve already racked up,” Obama said in his weekly address. “If Congress refuses to give the United States the ability to pay its bills on time, the consequences for the entire global economy could be catastrophic.

    So increasing the debt is about repaying the debt.

    Anybody notice how much Democrat pronouncements resemble Orwell’s Ministry of Truth?

    “In George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the Ministry of Truth is Oceania’s propaganda ministry. It is responsible for any necessary falsification of historical events. The word truth in the title Ministry of Truth should warn, by definition, that the “minister” will self-serve its own “truth”; the title implies the willful fooling of posterity using “historical” archives to show “in fact” what “really” happened. As well as administering truth, the administration deploys a new tongue-in-cheek language amongst administrators called Newspeak, in which, for example, truth is understood to mean statements like 2 + 2 = 5 when the situation warrants.”

    Comment by Gerald A (f26857) — 1/7/2013 @ 8:23 am

  9. Greetings:

    It’s always nice hearing from the First Female ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives of the UNited States Congress.

    Comment by 11B40 (eda252) — 1/7/2013 @ 9:19 am

  10. The idea that the 14th Amendment says that the President can borrow without Congressional authoriziation is ludicrous. There is no rational reading that reaches that. Plus, its idiotic because no sane organization would purchase debt instruments issued by the President without Congressional authority. She’s a blithering idiot.

    This dishonest twit Pelosi also started the Democrats’ practice of intentionally failing to pass budgets. A practice the Democrats have continued.

    The answer is as you say, Patterico, for the House to refuse to pass any more continuing resolutions. Pass a budget period.

    Comment by SPQR (3a9ddb) — 1/7/2013 @ 9:28 am

  11. 4. narciso,

    A balanced budget amendment is the ONLY way we’ll fix this, IMO.

    Comment by Patterico (8b3905) — 1/7/2013 @ 7:37 am

    Why? What’s the problem we’re trying to fix? That our collection of Constitutional provisions the Democrats can ignore too small?

    This is an entirely bogus argument and we don’t need an amendment to fix it. What Pelosi is saying is that one Congress can bind another Congress. It doesn’t matter if the people replace a Congress that is spending recklessly with another Congress that promises to alter course. Pelosi is saying it can’t alter the course of spending.

    We have no moral or legal obligation to borrow the money to pay her debts.

    Comment by Steve57 (2073db) — 1/7/2013 @ 9:30 am

  12. this is how people start thinking once it sinks in that their deeply perverted constitution-molesting supreme court justice practices honey badger jurisprudence with a gusto never before seen outside of certain exotic third world enclaves

    Comment by happyfeet (ce327d) — 1/7/2013 @ 9:31 am

  13. *chief* justice is what that should say

    Comment by happyfeet (ce327d) — 1/7/2013 @ 9:36 am

  14. Methinks Obama will set his own limit with or without a compliant congress.

    Comment by Amphipolis (d3e04f) — 1/7/2013 @ 9:37 am

  15. I think that Obama is the worst President we’ve had in my lifetime, but I can’t believe that even that clown would create a constitutional crisis by attempting to ignore the debt ceiling.

    Nor do I think that the Federal Reserve or the financial markets would cooperate in such.

    That’s why Pelosi looks like a f’ing moron by suggesting it.

    Comment by SPQR (3a9ddb) — 1/7/2013 @ 9:53 am

  16. I think that Obama is the worst President we’ve had in my lifetime, but I can’t believe that even that clown would create a constitutional crisis by attempting to ignore the debt ceiling.

    On the other hand, the trillion-dollar coin idea, while economic madness, would be perfectly constitutional, so I don’t see why he’d cavil at it.

    Comment by Milhouse (15b6fd) — 1/7/2013 @ 10:00 am

  17. Milhouse, I’m not yet convinced that the coin idea is actually legal but regardless, I think it would be great for the GOP if Obama implemented it. The amount of ridicule possible for us to use against Democrats by comparing them to Zimbabwe would be a huge PR boon.

    Comment by SPQR (3a9ddb) — 1/7/2013 @ 10:05 am

  18. Ted Cruz speaks for me. Washington needs common sense and principles, not compromise.

    Comment by DRJ (a83b8b) — 1/7/2013 @ 10:20 am

  19. Palomino!

    Comment by daleyrocks (bf33e9) — 1/7/2013 @ 10:33 am

  20. The Fourteenth Amendment’s purpose is to ensure that the southern states pay for the debts incurred during the Civil War; and to deny payment by the reestablished Union of debts created by the Confederate government.

    Other than that, no one is denying the validity of our current debt. We’re just saying you can’t take out more.

    Comment by luagha (5cbe06) — 1/7/2013 @ 10:44 am

  21. “Washington needs common sense and principles, not compromise.

    - DRJ

    Speaking for the opposition, I am opposed to both common sense and principles.

    Comment by Leviticus (17b7a5) — 1/7/2013 @ 10:57 am

  22. And again, as silly as the argument is, it is an argument. One that Obama can use to claim the debt limit doesn’t bind !*THE PRESIDENT*! and with the implication that they either lump it or impeach him.

    Chief Bunny Rabbit Roberts won’t do a thing either.

    Comment by Kevin M (bf8ad7) — 1/7/2013 @ 11:09 am

  23. i hate that bunny rabbit cause of how he piddles on the constitution

    Comment by happyfeet (ce327d) — 1/7/2013 @ 11:11 am

  24. Chief Bunny Rabbit Roberts won’t do a thing either.

    You have no basis for that accusation. Be as upset as you like about the result of Sibelius, but it was not a rejection of constitutional authority. Quite the contrary.

    Comment by Milhouse (15b6fd) — 1/7/2013 @ 11:12 am

  25. After all, who would have thought Obama could make recess appointments when the Senate claimed it was in session? Or ordered the EPA to issue as regulations things the Congress refused to pass? Or fought a war in Libya without Congressional authorization?

    Why should this be any different? Obama is accreting Imperial power. Now he’s using the Newtown thing as his Reichstag fire to grab all the guns.

    Dangerous times.

    Comment by Kevin M (bf8ad7) — 1/7/2013 @ 11:17 am

  26. but it was not a rejection of constitutional authority. Quite the contrary.

    No, it was a weak and toothless affirmation of constitutional authority. Quite a difference that.

    Comment by Kevin M (bf8ad7) — 1/7/2013 @ 11:21 am

  27. Other than that, no one is denying the validity of our current debt. We’re just saying you can’t take out more.

    Yes, but the argument is that if we don’t borrow more we can’t service the existing debt, and are thus calling it into question. (This claim, that not servicing the debt is tantamount to questioning its validity, is itself illogical; but let’s leave that aside for the moment.)

    On its face this seems like nonsense, because there’s more than enough tax revenue coming in each day to service the debt; we don’t need to borrow for that purpose alone. If the Treasury were to prioritize its spending, and dedicate all revenue first to servicing the debt, and only then to other purposes for which Congress has appropriated money, then our creditors would be completely satisfied.

    However, the proponents of this argument aren’t quite as stupid as that. They have anticipated this response, and rebut it by saying that since Congress has not prioritized its appropriations, the Treasury lacks the authority to do so. Legally, the argument goes, the Treasury’s obligation to pay interest on T-bills as it comes due, and its obligation to pay for the Basket Weaving Hall of Fame, are of equal rank, and it has no authority to stiff the basket weavers in order to pay the creditors. The USA’s bills must be paid in the order that they come due, and thus if the basket-weavers’ grant comes in first all the tax revenue must go to that, and then there will be nothing left for the creditors. And since, goes the argument, since the 14th amendment prohibits stiffing the creditors, the President is left with no choice but to borrow for that purpose.

    This is a clever argument, but alas it’s too clever for its own good. Spot the logical fallacy it contains.

    Comment by Milhouse (15b6fd) — 1/7/2013 @ 11:29 am

  28. After all, who would have thought Obama could make recess appointments when the Senate claimed it was in session? Or ordered the EPA to issue as regulations things the Congress refused to pass? Or fought a war in Libya without Congressional authorization?

    The NLRB issue has been kept out of the courts, precisely because the administration is afraid it will be struck down the moment it can be. There is no basis for supposing that Roberts would uphold it. The other two haven’t come before the court either. Congress has authorised the EPA to make regulations, so I’m not sure on what basis they can be struck down just because they parallel laws that Congress has declined to make. And I can’t think of how the Libya thing could ever come before a court.

    Comment by Milhouse (15b6fd) — 1/7/2013 @ 11:34 am

  29. No, it was a weak and toothless affirmation of constitutional authority. Quite a difference that.

    It was a positive affirmation of constitutional authority over Congress. It stated emphatically that Congress has no authority to require people to buy anything, and that any law that purported to do so would be invalid. And it also stated that Congress could not get around this restriction by disguising a penalty as a tax. It only upheld the law in question by construing it not to contain any requirement.

    Comment by Milhouse (15b6fd) — 1/7/2013 @ 11:38 am

  30. I suppose the simplest way I can put it for myself, the 14h amendment would only appear to allow a raising of the debt limit if revenues taken in were less than the servicing of the debt. (Which leads to some sort of circular situation if I say so myself.) Which means any spending not associated to paying off that debt would need to be cut and no “new” spending could take place.

    Currently, would that mean a federal government shut down? No. Current revenues exceed the servicing of the debt and most, if not all, “required” expenditures (defense, social security, etc.). Does that mean a lot of federal regulatory agencies get shut / cut back. Sure. (Which could clear the way to an economic growth not seen in quite some time.)

    Comment by Dilligas (cc8ddb) — 1/7/2013 @ 2:23 pm

  31. Speaking for the opposition, I am opposed to both common sense and principles.

    Comment by Leviticus

    Is your comment sarcastic, sincere, or humorous?

    If it’s sarcastic, then I assume you didn’t watch the video at the link because the interview is over 10 minutes long and Cruz provides a detailed explanation of his idea of common sense and principled solutions to several problems — all of which you are not only free to disagree with but frankly I expect it of you.

    If your comment is sincere, then I assume you are defending the Democrats by suggesting they, too believe their actions are based on common sense and principles. Of course, in the past you’ve always claimed you aren’t here to defend the Democrats. Perhaps this is one of many exceptions to your rule.

    Or if this is your attempt at humor, it’s very clever. What a bright boy you are, Leviticus.

    Comment by DRJ (a83b8b) — 1/7/2013 @ 2:55 pm

  32. It’s sarcastic. Like yours, ultimately.

    Comment by Leviticus (17b7a5) — 1/7/2013 @ 2:58 pm

  33. But I’ll watch the video.

    Comment by Leviticus (17b7a5) — 1/7/2013 @ 2:59 pm

  34. Title’s not doing it any favors.

    Comment by Leviticus (17b7a5) — 1/7/2013 @ 3:00 pm

  35. He’s smooth. He’s a politician. He’s absolutely nothing new.

    Comment by Leviticus (17b7a5) — 1/7/2013 @ 3:10 pm

  36. Pelosi is blowing smoke. The government is already getting enough revenue to meet existing debt payments.

    Just not enough to meet debt payments AND fund the massive welfare state created by people like Pelosi.

    Comment by Dave Surls (46b08c) — 1/7/2013 @ 3:20 pm

  37. I suppose the simplest way I can put it for myself, the 14h amendment would only appear to allow a raising of the debt limit if revenues taken in were less than the servicing of the debt.

    Actually not even then, but that’s a separate argument that I didn’t want to go into in my long comment above. So I’ll do it here: besides the logical fallacy in their main argument, their entire premise fails because failing to service the debt does not call it into question. When you tell a creditor that you can’t pay a debt, are you thereby disputing it?! No, you’re not. You’re acknowledging it, but saying that you haven’t got the money to pay it. There’s nothing in the 14th amendment to prevent the USA from doing the same.

    Comment by Milhouse (15b6fd) — 1/7/2013 @ 3:40 pm

  38. I think Ms. Nancy has been hitting the sherry a little too hard!

    Comment by Patricia (be0117) — 1/7/2013 @ 3:52 pm

  39. “You’re acknowledging it, but saying that you haven’t got the money to pay it.”

    Yeah, but the Feds DO have the money to pay off the debts owed by the government of the United States.

    Comment by Dave Surls (46b08c) — 1/7/2013 @ 4:06 pm

  40. Yeah, but the Feds DO have the money to pay off the debts owed by the government of the United States.

    Well, to service it anyway. I addressed this in #27. In #37 I was addressing the hypothetical case in which revenue was not enough to service the debt.

    Comment by Milhouse (15b6fd) — 1/7/2013 @ 4:14 pm

  41. There isn’t anything sarcastic about my comment, Leviticus. I meant every word of it.

    Comment by DRJ (a83b8b) — 1/7/2013 @ 4:36 pm

  42. “What a bright boy you are, Leviticus.”

    Comment by Leviticus (17b7a5) — 1/7/2013 @ 5:08 pm

  43. One can mean something and still convey it sarcastically.

    Comment by Leviticus (17b7a5) — 1/7/2013 @ 5:08 pm

  44. Anyway. I’m sorry. I’m getting worse and worse at remembering who I’m talking to.

    Comment by Leviticus (17b7a5) — 1/7/2013 @ 5:42 pm

  45. Or remembering what she’s taught me.

    Comment by Leviticus (17b7a5) — 1/7/2013 @ 5:42 pm

  46. i never had a doubt we’d always work things out i’ve learned what life’s about

    Comment by happyfeet (ce327d) — 1/7/2013 @ 6:41 pm

  47. Like he really wants to set a “limit”.

    Comment by Icy (f1nk31m@n) (5d11c1) — 1/7/2013 @ 7:27 pm

  48. Shorter Pelosi: “Constitution, shmonstitution!!!”

    Comment by Icy (f1nk31m@n) (5d11c1) — 1/7/2013 @ 7:28 pm

  49. “I addressed this in #27.”

    So you did. I missed that one.

    Comment by Dave Surls (46b08c) — 1/7/2013 @ 10:42 pm

  50. Leviticus,

    At this point in my life, I view people who are Patterico’s age as almost kids, and I bet you’re half that age. But I know it doesn’t seem that way to you, and I apologize for offending you.

    Comment by DRJ (a83b8b) — 1/8/2013 @ 2:25 pm

  51. Shorter DRJ: get off my lawn.

    Comment by SPQR (0ae5ca) — 1/8/2013 @ 2:56 pm

  52. I might start complaining about young whippersnappers on the innertubes. I’m way over the hill.

    Comment by DRJ (a83b8b) — 1/8/2013 @ 3:13 pm

  53. DRJ,

    I’m the one that should be apologizing – I snarked when I didn’t need to. I apologize.

    Comment by Leviticus (17b7a5) — 1/8/2013 @ 3:16 pm

  54. DRJ, I’ll loan you one of my canes to throw at ‘em.

    Comment by SPQR (768505) — 1/8/2013 @ 4:10 pm

  55. January 14, 2013

    Comment by David Barkley (3a39e6) — 1/14/2013 @ 4:22 pm

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