Here’s what’s going to happen. Or not.
This morning the House GOP pissed all over the emerging deal between Senate Democrats and Republicans. So now this scenario gets closer: Congressional Democrats suing the President for breaking the debt ceiling law. Right, Democrats.
I expect there will be a deal, but whether the technical stuff gets done in time to pay the bills — that’s where the question is. We may have a deal in place that needs to work its way through the government gears and won’t be done in time for Treasury to legally pay all of the bills, in accordance with both the debt ceiling law and the various Congressional appropriations that are in effect.
So, rather than allowing some obligation to go unmet for a day (or two, who knows), Obama should direct Treasury to go ahead and pay everything, issuing new debt if necessary. Ben Bernanke, lame duck Federal Reserve Chairman, will intervene if necessary, using a broad interpretation of the Fed’s mandate to maintain full employment. What are they gonna do, fire him?
The President will explain these extraordinary actions as necessary due to the idiots in the House GOP, similar to what I described here. And then the law will catch up to reality and everything will go along swimmingly until we hit the next moronic debt limit showdown.
Then there would be discussion about what can be done about the president breaking the letter of the debt ceiling law. And Congressional Democrats should take the President to court.
If he could, the President would get rid of the debt ceiling law, which is inherently stupid (Congressmen know damned well that their appropriations can only be paid for through expanding the debt) and destructive (its only purpose is as a cudgel to extract booty). But he can’t. And since Congress won’t be doing it any time soon–they want to keep any anti-debt optical illusions they can–only the courts can end the madness, and avoid potentially endless debt limit brinkmanship, during Obama’s term.
So the Democrats take him to court. They would be able to show harm, as the will of Congress will have been thwarted (even for a short time). Doesn’t matter which party was trying to force the apocalypse. The laws are owned by all of them equally. The courts would be forced to deal with the opposition of the debt limit and Congressional appropriations.
What’s the worst that could happen? The Supreme Court could affirm the current stupid system and could come back and say that the President did technically break the law and that he shouldn’t have done that. Tsk tsk. And then the tea partiers would have something for which they could impeach Obama. But really, they’ve demonstrated their willingness to waste time tilting at windmills; would this be any different functionally than what they’ve been doing?
In the meantime we would be having an extended conversation on the debt ceiling, which I don’t think could stand any rigorous thought. The tea partiers would still believe in it, of course, because they seem to be incapable of rigorous thought.
But perhaps the court would rule differently. Perhaps the court would strike down the debt ceiling, which would save us all so much trouble. I think it’s worth the gamble.