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Debt Ceiling and Guns: Using Presidential Authority to the Fullest

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Anyone who thinks congressional Republicans will roll over on the debt ceiling or gun control or other pending hot-button issues hasn't been paying attention.

But the President can use certain tools that come with his office -- responsibilities enshrined in the Constitution and in his capacity as the nation's chief law-enforcer -- to achieve some of his objectives.

On the debt ceiling, for example, he might pay the nation's creditors regardless of any vote on the debt ceiling -- based on the the Fourteenth Amendment's explicit directive (in Section 4) that "the validity of the public debt of the United States ... shall not be questioned."

Or, rather than issue more debt, the President might use a loophole in a law (31 USC, Section 5112) allowing the Treasury to issue commemorative coins -- minting a $1 trillion coin and then depositing it with the Fed.

Both gambits would almost certainly end up in the Supreme Court, but not before they've been used to pay the nation's bills. (It's doubtful any federal court, including the Supremes, would enjoin a President from protecting the full faith and credit of the United States).

Or consider guns. As Vice President Joe Biden said Wednesday, "there are executive orders, executive action that can be taken" that don't require congressional approval.

The President probably needs new legislation to reinstate a ban on the sale of military-style assault weapons, stop the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips, and require background checks on all gun buyers.

But he has wide authority to use gun laws already on the books as the basis for regulations or executive orders strengthening gun enforcement. 

There's ample precedent. After a mass school shooting in Stockton, California, in 1989, George H.W. Bush issued an executive order, pursuant to the 1968 Gun Control Act, that banned imports of certain assault weapons unless used for sporting purposes. Years later, Bill Clinton by executive order banned imports of almost five dozen different assault weapons that had been modified to get through that "sporting purposes" exemption. President Obama could go even further.

To take another example, the National Firearms Act of 1934 gives a president broad powers to oversee gun dealers. By executive order, the President could tighten that oversight.

Under his law-enforcement authority the President could also issue executive orders improving information sharing among state and local law enforcement authorities about illegal gun purchases,  tracking gun buyers' history of mental illness, and maintaining data on gun sales for longer periods.

The Administration has already issued a regulation designed to prevent sales of semi-automatic rifles to Mexican drug cartels. It requires stores in states bordering Mexico to notify federal law enforcement officials when someone buys two or more of a particular type of high-caliber, semi-automatic rifle with a detachable magazine. That regulation, too, could be expanded upon.

No doubt such executive orders and regulations would be challenged in the federal courts (the regulation on semi-automatic rifles is now in a federal appeals court that's expected to rule on its legality within the next few months).

But it's a fair argument that when the nation is jeopardized -- whether in danger of defaulting on its debts or succumbing to mass violence -- a president is justified in using his authority to the fullest.

The mere threat of taking such actions -- using the President's executive authority to pay the nation's bills or broadly interpret gun laws already on the books -- could be useful in pending negotiations with congressional Republicans.

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http://robertreich.org/

Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor and Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley, has a new film, "Inequality for All," to be released September 27. He blogs at www.robertreich.org.

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I understand the Author's main point, & that's the... by Rico D. on Thursday, Jan 10, 2013 at 8:04:39 PM
This is what happens when Americans allow themselv... by Rico D. on Thursday, Jan 10, 2013 at 8:11:29 PM
Thanks for getting the citizen (OEN) commentary of... by Ned Lud on Saturday, Jan 12, 2013 at 5:25:44 AM
Ned, while I fully agree that a bad and all powerf... by Alan MacDonald on Saturday, Jan 12, 2013 at 10:12:12 AM
I also understand why you responded to Alan that w... by Rico D. on Saturday, Jan 12, 2013 at 7:26:31 PM
Rico,  I think you have identified a very imp... by Jim Brauner on Sunday, Jan 13, 2013 at 11:59:40 AM
I was going to write much the same thing.... by June Genis on Saturday, Jan 12, 2013 at 11:06:28 AM
President Barack Obama "nation's chief law-enforce... by Lance Ciepiela on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 7:59:25 AM
Citizens don't want to pay trillions to occupy all... by Steven G. Erickson on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 9:12:39 AM
And, if there was, our automatic rifles would not ... by BFalcon on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 2:23:23 PM
There is a World Government: NATO, G20, World Bank... by Rico D. on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 3:03:34 PM
The only thing that can bring down this disguised ... by Alan MacDonald on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 3:42:18 PM
And, please, what is the goal?... by BFalcon on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 4:36:18 PM
Let's hamper the acquisition of lawful weapons by ... by Timothy O'Neil on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 12:36:56 PM
Mr. Reich writes:But it's a fair argument that whe... by Phil Weingart on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 1:43:56 PM
supplying ammunition to soldiers in Afghanistan?Or... by BFalcon on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 2:09:27 PM
If USA never invaded/occupied Afghanistan to begin... by Rico D. on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 3:11:18 PM
But I can't reverse the past so we have to work fr... by BFalcon on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 4:41:08 PM
It's not about reversing the past, it's about prop... by Rico D. on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 6:30:54 PM
First, no more Republican neo-Empire.Second, learn... by BFalcon on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 8:21:41 PM
Civilization existed prior to the Bible also, but ... by Rico D. on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 9:34:52 PM
I actually agree mostly with your conclusions, for... by Rico D. on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 9:39:14 PM
Let me submit to you that funding DEA raids of med... by Alan Pyeatt on Sunday, Jan 13, 2013 at 11:32:18 PM
When you say "The Inner Cities" you mean the Ghett... by Rico D. on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 3:23:49 PM
@Phil Weingart:   You really don't understa... by Ned Lud on Saturday, Jan 12, 2013 at 5:40:33 AM
If Obama uses executive order to take away people'... by Hegesias Cyrene on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 2:24:30 PM
But  " pay the nation's creditors regardless ... by BFalcon on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 2:26:09 PM
Amendment, and dare Congress to do something about... by Richard Girard on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 2:50:17 PM
If George W. Bush can give away his country's surp... by Simon Leigh on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 2:51:53 PM
Oh dear.  And Reich comes with credentials?&n... by Mike Stewart on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 7:00:03 PM
This article suggests to me that a higher court ca... by CommonSenseForCommonGood.com on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 8:10:50 PM
I personally think that citizens should have the r... by June Genis on Saturday, Jan 12, 2013 at 11:18:26 AM
In the same token, if there's to be a ban on "assa... by Rico D. on Saturday, Jan 12, 2013 at 7:42:29 PM
Robert Reich writes:"The Administration has al... by KurtB on Friday, Jan 11, 2013 at 8:33:32 PM
Restore the Social Security Trust FundBring all th... by Ken Stevens on Saturday, Jan 12, 2013 at 1:38:25 AM
Justifying policy by saying that if a republican t... by Alan Pyeatt on Sunday, Jan 13, 2013 at 11:39:09 PM