Sarah Palin Mitch McConnells Plan: Old-Fashioned Constitutional Thinking? Only Congress Has Power of Purse Strings

There is much talk of, and dismay at, Senator Mitch McConnell’s “back up” debt ceiling plan. The ‘plan’ is fairly simple: McConnell would give Barack Obama the power to raise the national debt limit to avoid default. The problem is, as Palin points out, the ‘plan’ is unconstitutional. The Heritage Foundation’s The Foundry echoes her, with detail. Other’s see the ‘plan’ as “brilliant.”

Sarah Palin

The ‘plan’:

McConnell’s proposal to let the president increase the debt limit in three stages, while requiring him to propose offsetting spending cuts, offered a potential path out of the impasse over addressing the nation’s long-term debt that has brought the government within weeks of a default. It also signaled the issue may continue to loom during next year’s election campaign if Congress is forced to take further votes on the debt ceiling.

Sarah Palin:

Palin noted that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s plan — to allow Obama to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling without a congressional vote — “makes no sense,” because the Constitution hands the power of the purse strings to Congress.

Little details, like who has constitutional power just isn’t of interest to most in Congress. Palin also said if she were in Congress she would not vote to raise the debt ceiling under this president because…”I — I do not trust him.”

The Foundry (Heritage Foundation):

Under McConnell’s plan, President Obama would propose three incremental debt limit increases between now and the end of 2012.  Congress could only vote to disapprove these requests, which President Obama could then veto. Without a 2/3 majority in Congress to override that veto, which is very unlikely, the debt limit increase would become automatic.

This plan is insufficient and is obviously a non-starter. At a time of record deficits and an ever-worsening economy, it would be the height of irresponsibility to raise the federal debt ceiling $2.5 trillion without at the same time implementing sweeping systemic reforms that would restore our nation’s economy.

First, this plan effectively eliminates Congress’ authority and responsibility for the federal budget.  We won’t know if real cuts will even exist, rather than the smoke and mirrors Americans have been suckered by in the past…

this proposal raises several serious constitutional concerns.  Depending on exactly how the legislative language is drafted, it well might violate the Bicameralism and Presentment Clauses for the making of law, the separation of powers regarding Congress’s control over the budget and spending, the legislative Recommendations Clause, and it might also be struck down as an attempt to grant the President the equivalent of a line-item veto.  It is also unclear whether the unconstitutional portion would be struck down by the courts and severed from the rest of the statute (which would eliminate Congress’s ability to veto the cuts) or if the entire scheme would be struck down.  But, at a minimum, the proposal is highly dubious as a matter of constitutional law.

Keith Koffler at White House Dossier says the ‘plan’ is a “brilliant maneuver,’ and says Senator McConnell is one of the “craftiest” operators in Washington, D.C. Koffler gave the ‘plan’ the moniker “The GOP Have Your Cake and Eat it Too Plan.” The constitutionality isn’t mentioned. He explains the ‘plan:’

Under the GOP Have Your Cake and Eat it Too Plan, OBAMA must propose to raise the debt ceiling three times – including the summer before Election Day. Republicans can vote against it, but Obama can veto their vote, in which case they need two thirds majorities to override the veto and not raise the debt limit. They won’t get it, but they’ll get to say they went to the wall to get a deal to cut spending without raising taxes.

IF the debt ceiling is not raised, Koffler describes the scenario:

Key services begin to end, checks don’t get paid, markets go haywire, the economy begins to stall, and Republicans say “yikes!” and then HEAD INTO FULL RETREAT AND CHANGE THEIR MINDS REAL FAST AND VOTE TO RAISE THE DEBT CEILING.

That’s my only fear in not raising the debt limit. We’re not going to default. If the market goes down, it will head back up quickly after Democrats get serious about cutting spending – but I don’t trust the GOP to remain strong – whatever it takes. As Obama said, this is a divided government. From my viewpoint, that means one side will emerge the winner for the sake of the country, one side will blink. The Republican call for massive spending cuts is the only responsible answer. Our side must win for that reason, but we are infamous for blinking.

Other heavyweights objecting to the ‘plan:’

Newt Gingrich: “”McConnell’s plan is an irresponsible surrender to big government, big deficits and continued overspending.”

Michele Bachmann: “I’ve been here long enough that I’ve seen a lot of smoke and mirrors but I haven’t been here long enough to forget who I serve or where I come from,” she told reporters. “And again all I can reiterate is that people across America are saying the spending is what has to be addressed, it’s too much, it’s got to be limited.”

Ron Paul: “Republicans cannot take the bait and get fooled again,”

Tim Pawlenty: “We cannot allow it to increase without game-changing reforms to our federal budget. Let’s start with a balanced budget amendment, a cap on federal spending levels and real cuts to this year’s budget,” (I’m not positive this quote is in direct reference to McConnell’s plan)

I’ve found nothing from Romney, Huntsman, Cain, or McCotter.

In the meantime, as the time draws near, the true conservatives in Congress who have vowed to not raise the debt ceiling without meaningful and massive cuts, or a balanced budget amendment, are under extreme pressure. Just think back to the new 112th Congress in January 2011. The new Freshman class arrived with the repeal of ObamaCare on their minds. Debt ceiling votes came and went between then and now, and there was never any serious move to repeal ObamaCare, which would have had a positive impact on reducing our debt. Boehner was foolish. Maybe he thought he had time, but the time was then, when we had the momentum and the leverage. Bottom line, both Palin and The Heritage Foundation see this ‘plan’ as unconstitutional, and it looks that way to me. This is Congress’ responsibility. Let’s get it done.

Photo Credit: ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images

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