The U.S. debt keeps soaring, now at a whopping $16.438 trillion dollars; $44 billion over the actual U.S. debt ceiling, which is, by law, still at $16.394 trillion dollars. Even though Democrats in the U.S. Senate were obligated to keep spending below the legal limit, that did not stop them from demanding an increase in taxes, without any real reductions to federal spending; and the "fiscal cliff deal" on revenues was achieved. Now, where do Democrats stand on Round 2 of the "fiscal cliff"; on the issues of the U.S. debt ceiling, spending, and an agreement on the federal budget?
On January 2, President Barack Obama said, "Thanks to the votes of Democrats and Republicans in Congress I will sign a law that raises taxes on the wealthiest 2% of Americans. Tonight’s agreement further reduces the deficit by raising $620 billion in revenue from the wealthiest households." The President then went on to say, "the fact is, the deficit is still too high. I believe there's further unnecessary spending in government that we can eliminate". The President said that increased taxes were a "first step" towards reducing the budget deficit, but that he would not negotiate with Republicans over the debt ceiling. "There will be more deficit reduction as Congress decides what to do about the automatic spending cuts in two months", Obama said, shortly after the House had passed the "fiscal cliff deal".
So what is the unnecessary spending in government, according to Barack Obama? We have no way to know, because the President won't tell us what he thinks that is. More than a week after the "fiscal cliff deal" that raised taxes on over 70% of working Americans, the President has not spoken of federal spending; and at this point, it looks like his position is: "I'm going to spend whatever money that I think the federal government needs to spend, and if you don't like my plan, then take me to court."
Democrats in Congress are now urging President Obama to ignore the 1917 debt ceiling law, known as the "Second Liberty Bond Act", because they claim it conflicts with other laws passed since then. Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) believes that the President is not obligated to comply with Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which gave the sole power to borrow money to Congress. Udall elaborated on the position being taken by Democrats, saying, "The president I think has the authority under the Constitution and under the various statutes that are passed - if nothing is done - he must do something about paying the bills. That issue may well go to the courts in our system.” He went on to add, "He’s got two different statutes telling him different things and he can resolve - multiple statutes telling him different things - he can resolve that issue."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, speaking on the NBC political program "Meet the Press", said "I wish the president would lead us on the discussion rather than putting himself in the position of having to be dragged kicking and screaming to discuss the single biggest issue facing our future. You know, until we adjust the entitlements so that they meet the demographics of our country, we can't ever solve this problem. The time to solve it is now." McConnell continued, telling host David Gregory, "What we're saying is that the biggest problem facing the country is our excessive spending. We've watched the government explode over the last four years. We've dealt with the revenue issue, and now the question is will the president lead? Why should we have to be bringing him to the table?" McConnell then addressed calls by Democrats for even more taxes, saying that new taxes, achieved through reforms to the current tax code, are off the table going forward. "That's over. I'm in favor of doing tax reform but I think tax reform ought to be revenue neutral as it was back during the Reagan years. We've resolved this issue."
Now many in the Republican party are starting to believe that President Obama is willing to create a constitutional crisis in order for him to seize authority over the federal budget from Congress. Since the "fiscal cliff deal" was passed by Congress, story after story has appeared in major media outlets across America, telling us about this plan and that plan to get around the "debt ceiling" problem. From the mythical "trillion dollar coin", to creating laws on spending solely based on executive power, Obama's position appears now to be "the constitution doesn't apply to me." After all, if the President is refusing to honor the most important part of the U.S. Constitution, the Separation of Powers, why should he support or defend any other part of the constitution?
If President Obama decides to just ignore the debt ceiling, our country will have moved from a representative republic, to a dictatorship, with a few strokes of a pen. Congress must enforce it's authority under the constitution to establish limits for spending and borrowing, and stand against the position staked out by Democrats, or we lose our constitution. The debate over increasing the debt ceiling now has come to defending the constitution against all enemies, foreign or domestic. We'll find out where Democrats and Republicans stand on the issue of congressional authority over spending and borrowing very, very soon. But will any agreement come too late to avert a default on U.S. debt obligations, or a lowering of the U.S. credit rating?