While writing another post about the debt ceiling that I'll post later today or tomorrow, I had an idea that I have not seen raised anywhere else yet - Obama should sue Congress over the debt ceiling, and fast.
Here's the basic problem the Obama administration has vis-à-vis the debt ceiling:
- Congress passed a budget ordering the Obama administration to spend X amount of money.
- Congress passed a debt ceiling telling the Obama administration that it can't borrow more than Y dollars.
- Y is too small to allow the Obama administration to spend X.
- Therefore, by passing contradictory laws, Congress is forcing the Obama administration to violate the law - either the law governing the budget or the law governing the debt ceiling.
If Obama exercised "the constitutional option," it's not clear what would happen - Congress would be the only party who would have standing to sue the Obama administration, though it's unlikely that a joint resolution to sue the President would pass Congress. Even if Congress took the Obama administration to the Supreme Court, I rather doubt that this conservative Court, with its affinity for concentrating power in the hands of the Executive Branch, would rule against the Obama administration. But, there is that possibility - after all, if Obama can overrule Congress's authority to borrow (based on laws it passed through its authority to spend), what's to stop the President from overruling Congress's authority to tax, print money, or sell federal property, if needed? And without question, regardless of the final outcome, exercising "the constitutional option" would inject a lot of uncertainty into the economy and politics until the Supreme Court decided the final outcome.
I think, however, that it is very clear that the Obama administration has standing to sue Congress NOW over putting it into a situation in which it MUST break the law and must choose the law it's going to break. I suspect that the Supreme Court would indeed find that Congress may not put the President into that kind of bind and therefore find the debt ceiling unconstitutional.
This approach (Obama suing Congress) has other advantages - it could happen far faster than Congress suing Obama in order to find out who is in the wrong, and it puts the Obama administration on the offensive rather than the defensive.
So, dear readers / lawyers / Constitutional scholars out there - what do you think of this plan?