No More Debt Cap?


One of the provisions in the “fiscal cliff” deal President Obama has offered Republicans is unilateral control over the debt cap. What that would mean is that the President could raise the nation’s authorization to accumulate debt on his own, without any sort of consent from Congress.

Normally, you would expect a bi-partisan rejection of this sort of offer from Congress. Democrat or Republican, members of the legislative branch typically don’t like ceding authority to the executive branch.

But as far as Nancy Pelosi is concerned, the President can have unilateral authority over the debt ceiling:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Friday that Congress should hand over to President Barack Obama the power to unilateral increase the limit on the U.S. government’s debt.

In effect, under the plan Pelosi is endorsing, the only limit on the national debt would be President Obama’s willingness to borrow money in the name of American taxpayers.

At a Friday press conference, a reporter asked Pelosi if she agreed with a proposal made by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that Congress give Obama the power to unilaterally increase the debt limit.

“Yes,” she said.

Sure. Why would a nation $16 trillion in debt already, and adding another $1 trillion or so every year, need any sort of restraint on debt accumulation? Even a ceiling as historically porous as this one has been:

Those in favor of being rid of the debt ceiling (which is what we’d be doing by giving the president unilateral control of it) talk about it as though the debate and brinkmanship which takes place around it were a detriment to the nation. In reality, it seems these debt ceiling debates are the only choke point in national politics which forces a real debate over taxes and spending.

Shouldn’t we have this sort of debate before authorizing the adding of trillions of dollars in new debt for our sons and daughters and grand children to pay off?

Were it not for the debt ceiling, Republicans would have had little or no leverage to even slow spending under Obama and the Democrats. And why would Democrats want to give up that leverage which they might find handy should we have a new Republican president at some point?

Rob Port

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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