Senate Dems Touting 14th Amendment To Avoid GOP Ransom Demands On Debt Ceiling. Could Impeachment Follow?
This story by Ryan Grim and Samuel Haass from The Huffington Post is well worth a few minutes of your time. Their bottom line is that Senate Democrats are starting to see the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution as a way to deal with the impasse over the debt ceiling the GOP has created. According to Grim and Haass (and a number of others I've spoken with in recent weeks) the amendment, which states "The validity of the debt of the U.S. shall not be questioned," effectively makes a statutory debt ceiling either moot or unconstitutional. As a result, the Republican strategy of holding the debt ceiling hostage and demanding cuts in Medicare and other programs before it will be released may not work. After all, it's really tough to get ransom for someone or something that doesn't exist and you don't care about.
The story implies that congressional Republicans would be powerless to deal with this situation because it's not clear whether they or anyone else would have standing to sue the White House.
Grim and Haass assume that the only possible redress would be in the courts. I'm convinced, however, that the GOP would have a number of political options. In particular, the House could...or perhaps almost certainly would...begin immediate impeachment proceedings against both the president and Treasury secretary. And, as someone who worked for a member of the House Judiciary Committee when it was debating Richard Nixon's impeachment, the articles of impeachment likely would not be limited to the borrowing beyond the debt ceiling issue. Everything from military activities in Libya to bailouts for the auto industry to whether Obama really is a U.S. citizen would be considered.
The Senate would not be likely to convict if the House voted to impeach and it might be worth it if the result would be to prevent a financial meltdown that would negatively affect the U.S. economy for years. But it would be ugly nonetheless.