Top Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate have reportedly told the executive branch they won’t object if the president simply declares he has the power to impose even greater financial debts on Americans.
The announcement, leaked Jan. 10 by a Democratic aide to The Washington Post, would effectively give the White House the unprecedented power to borrow and spend as much money as it wishes — unless the Supreme Court intervenes.
If allowed to stand by the court, the decision by Senate Democrats would effectively gut the authority of Congress’ two bodies — the Senate and House of Representatives — to jointly govern borrowing by the executive branch.
“The four Democratic leaders — Senators Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Dick Durbin and Patty Murray — have privately reached agreement that continued GOP intransigence on the debt ceiling means the White House needs the space to pursue options for raising it that don’t involve Congress,” according to the report in the Post.
“The White House needs to know that Dems will support whatever it decides to do,” read the report.
GOP Senators have decried the self-imposed diminution of the Senate, which was once lauded as “world’s the greatest deliberative body.”
The Democrats’ offer “is not only the height of irresponsibility, but also a guarantee that our national debt crisis will only get worse,” said the Republicans’ Senate leader Mitch McConnell.
“Rather than offering any plan to break the spending habit that’s causing the problem, Democrats are looking at everything from the ridiculous (printing a trillion-dollar coin) to outright abdication of Congressional responsibility,” he said.
“Democrats in Washington are falling all over themselves in an effort to do anything they can to get around the law—and to avoid taking any responsibility for Washington’s out-of-control spending … which is why many of us view the upcoming debt limit debate as a perfect opportunity to face up to Washington’s spending,” he said.
Speaker of the House John Boehner also denounced the unprecedented move.
“Senate Democrats cannot ignore their responsibilities for political convenience — and the American people will not tolerate an increase in the debt limit without spending cuts and reforms,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steel.
“Out-of-control Washington spending is costing jobs now, and condemning future generations of Americans to a lower standard of living. Washington Democrats must stop spending money we don’t have,” he said.
Congress’ sole authority over the nation’s debt is enshrined in Section 8 of Article 1 the Constitution, which says “Congress shall have the power to … borrow money on the credit of the United States.”
The Constitution does not give the executive branch any legal authority to borrow money from outsides sources.
The Congress’ power is implemented via the the Public Debts Acts of 1939 and 1941.