President Obama took one of the Republican Party’s favorite lines of attack, and turned it around on them by telling the House GOP that their debt ceiling demands are unconstitutional.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: The- George- I think it’s fair to say- you- that never in history have we used just making sure that the U.S. government is paying its bills as a lever to radically cut government at the kind of scale that they’re talking about. It’s never happened before. There’ve been negotiations around the corners, because nobody had ever presumed that you’d actually threaten the United States to default.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But how does this end, then? You know- they say they need changes in Obamacare. You say you’re not gonna negotiate. Are you just betting they’re gonna cave?
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: No, no- George, here’s the problem. The- the- if we set- if we continue to set a precedent in which a president, any president, a Republican president- a Democratic president- where the opposing party controls the House of Representatives- if- if that president is in a situation in which each time the United States is called upon to pay its bills- the other party can simply sit there and say, “Well, we’re not gonna put- pay the bills unless you give us what our- what we want,” that changes the constitutional structure of this government entirely.
Republicans have tried to claim that virtually everything that this president has done has been unconstitutional. The GOP has reacted to every move that this president has made by screaming unconstitutional at the top of their lungs. They have done this as a steady tactic to delegitimize the Obama presidency, and it was fascinating to see this president turn the tables on Republicans and use their argument against them.
However, there is one key difference between Obama’s argument, and the one used so often by Republicans against him.
Obama is correct. While the mainstream media gets caught up in the drama of the standoff, hardly anyone bothers to ask Republicans why they are engaging in unconstitutional behavior. House Republicans have a constitutional obligation to pay the nation’s bills. What Republicans are trying to do is change the separation of powers and structure of government without changing the constitution.
What Boehner and the Republicans are doing on the debt limit is sabotaging the constitution. But as we have seen over the past two decades, Republicans would rather talk about the constitution than actually follow it.
The debt ceiling stare down hasn’t even begun yet, but Barack Obama has already checkmated the House Republicans. This is why the biggest question isn’t if House Republicans will cave, but how much damage will they do before they inevitably give in?
Mr. Easley is the founder/managing editor and Senior White House and Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association