Editorial: Debt ceiling onus should be placed on executive branch
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 21:10
Congress raised the debt ceiling last Wednesday night, with help from all five Connecticut representatives and both senators. Failure to complete this simple task would have meant defaulting on our national debt payments, which would have not only lowered our credit rating but in turn raised interest rates and cost taxpayers lots of money. This was essentially a repeat of the virtually identical August 2011 fiasco, in which the debt ceiling was raised with less than 24 hours to spare. And it’s looking like the exact same near-catastrophe will occur again on or near February 7, the next time this mess is scheduled to come up. That’s less than four months away.
How to solve this problem? Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky has a proposal that the Obama Administration actually supports as well. Under current law, Congress has to vote to authorize raising the debt ceiling, even though virtually every economist agrees that this really shouldn’t even be up for debate. McConnell’s idea is that the president would gain the authority to raise the debt ceiling instead. The role of Congress would not be eliminated, though – rather, the legislative branch would have the opportunity to vote against the raise. As Ezra Klein explained in the Washington Post, “In other words, the debt ceiling vote goes from a vote where a majority of Congress needs to vote in favor of it to a vote where up to two-thirds of Congress can vote against it.”
This idea makes sense for several reasons, the most obvious being that we would finally end these ceaseless partisan battles over the debt ceiling that have defined Congress the past three years, and likely next year as well. Another benefit is that the quintessentially American idea of checks and balances among the branches of federal government is preserved, even while changing up the roles a little bit. Lastly, it would signal to world markets that the threat of Congress failing to raise the debt ceiling is off the table, eliminating the possibility of the American economy wreaking havoc on the global economy this way.
Not to mention that the most prominent Senate Republican (McConnell) and the most prominent Democrat (Obama) both support it. Nothing quite exemplifies contemporary congressional polarization and partisanship like the debt ceiling battles. Nothing would exemplify bridging that gap than leaders of both parties coming together to forever end those exact same debt ceiling battles.