The arrogance of Democrats’ calls for the president to invoke the 14th Amendment to by-pass Congress to raise the debt ceiling demonstrates their lack of Constitutional knowledge, but also their ignorance of the basic checks and balances between the three branches of government.
The third-ranking House Democrat, James Clyburn, said if Congress delivers a short-term debt deal, the president should veto it. The Southern Democrat pointed to the Constitution that says “the validity of the public debt of the United States… shall not be questioned.” Therefore, Clyburn says, the President “should sign an executive order invoking the 14th Amendment” to end the debt ceiling issue.
Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said the 14th Amendment should be the President’s last resort, “As far as the 14th Amendment is concerned, I urge everybody to get their Constitution and read it. It says the debts of the United States shall not be questioned.”
Even the mention of invoking the 14th Amendment sent some Republicans into a tizzy.
“Congress has the power to lay and collect taxes. It’s Congress that does the spending,” said Presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann (R-MN) during a CNN appearance. “The president is prohibited to do that (unilaterally raise America’s borrowing power). If he had the power to do that (borrow and spend), he would effectively be a dictator.” She is right.
Since all spending bills must originate in the House, (All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other bills.” Art I, Sec 7). Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s claims that the President can pick and choose what debts the U.S. will pay are disingenuous. If a credit obligation is authorized by Congress, it must be paid.
The misunderstanding also extends to those GOP lawmakers who wished to invoke the 14th Amendment to un-anchor “illegal alien anchor babies” – this is a 14th Amendment history lesson.
GOP Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) sought to revise the 14th Amendment, which currently grants citizenship to those born on America soil (this provision does not to extend to foreign diplomats).
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Even Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-OH), said the change was “worth considering.”
However, John McCain(R-AZ), coauthor of McCain-Kennedy immigration bill, said he would support holding hearings on the (anchor baby) issue in light of the 14th Amendment.
So what is the 14th Amendment and why is it such a misunderstood and erroneously cited authority?
The 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868 to ensure that all former slaves were granted automatic United States citizenship, and enjoy all the rights, privileges and immunities of any other citizen.
A concise explanation of the 14th Amendment meaning comes from a paper written by Attorney Doug Hammerstrom. “In 1873 when the Supreme Court heard the Slaughterhouse Cases, its first 14th Amendment case, the Court rebuked the attempts of business interests to use the amendment, saying that the Fourteenth Amendment’s ‘main purpose was to establish the citizenship of the Negro.’ Justice Miller added, “We doubt very much whether any action of a State not directed by way of discrimination against the Negroes as a class, or on account of their race, will ever be held to come within the purview of this provision.”
The question American’s should be asking is what exactly does the emancipation of black slaves has to do with debt limits and illegal immigration in the United States in 2011?
President Obama, a self-proclaimed-Constitutional scholar, should know better and chastise Congress regarding the roles of the three branches of government. Section 5 of the 14th Amendment unambiguously states, “The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.”
The Constitution remains the people’s document; it represents the beacon of freedom and protects the people’s liberty. And perhaps, more importantly, it has withstood the test of time.
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