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"There Will Be No Crisis Over the Debt Ceiling This Time": What I'd Say if I Were President Obama

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This is what I would say if I were President Obama:

"Two years ago, the Republicans in Congress took this nation to the brink of disaster, threatening to make the nation fail to pay its bills, damaging the faith and credit of the United States. They used the threat of making the nation default as a means to extort concessions, saying, in effect, 'Meet our demands or we'll hurt America.'

"We reached a deal, one from which we're still suffering today. But the mere fact that the Republicans --one of our two major parties-- had made such an irresponsible threat, and brought the nation to the brink, was enough to set back our economic recovery, to cost the American taxpayers billions, and to damage America's reputation in the world.

"That's not going to happen again. There will be no crisis over the debt ceiling this time

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"I am convinced now, though I was unsure two years ago, that it is in my presidential powers to make sure that we pay our bills. The 14th amendment declares that, "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, ... shall not be questioned." I believe that part of the U.S. Constitution invalidates the legislation that creates some artificial debt ceiling, thereby calling into question whether bills already incurred will be paid.

"Congress already spent the money. I'll see to it that our debts get paid.

"If the Republicans want to challenge my right to protect the full faith and credit of the United States, I'll be glad to defend my position in Court.

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"In the meanwhile, I will defend the American people, and the health of the American economy, and our international standing against injury inflicted by political blackmailers.

"If the debt ceiling procedure has not been challenged before, that's because never before --in the course of several generations-- has the debt ceiling been used for purposes of extortion. Eighty-some times, the United States raised its debt ceiling as needed --to pay bills already incurred-- on a bi-partisan basis. It was simply understood that we don't pay politics with the nation's credit.

"But that was before we had a political party willing to damage the country in its insistence on 'My way or the highway.'

"Now that we see how dangerously the debt ceiling provisions can be abused, we've had to re-examine the whole premise of that process.  In the course of that re-examination I have been advised, and am now persuaded, that a crisis of the kind we had in 2011 would represents a violation of the 14th amendment.

"I'm not going to let that happen again. There will be no extortion this time, no rewards for blackmail. I will see to it that the country pays its bills."

Here's why I think this is a politically good move for the president.

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Obama can accomplish next to nothing so long as these Republicans --who have shown they have no interest in making our government work for the good of the nation-- control the House.

Therefore the president's political efforts should be directed at defeating the Republicans on 2014. Without a real victory in the congressional elections 15 months from now, all the rest of Obama's presidency will be as crippled as it has been the last two and a half years.

This is one move toward achieving that victory. (I've got another move in mind I'll post another time.)

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)

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