There's No Such Thing as a Free Debt Ceiling. Unless...

It’s gone under the radar, but Politico reported this morning that, after a private request from President Obama to raise the debt ceiling, House Speaker John Boehner responded with a (not so) veiled demand.

“There is a price for everything.”

Sure, but that doesn’t mean you always have to pay it. Unlike last year, when he needed House Republicans to raise the debt ceiling—lest the United States fall into a second recession—Obama has all the leverage in this situation. If he does nothing, taxes on the rich return to their Clinton-era levels, and Republicans will have to negotiate from an unfavorable baseline.

In other words, John Boehner is not in a position to make demands or threats of any kind. But if he decides to try to win some bargaining power by holding the debt ceiling hostage to a deal that favors Republicans, Obama has another option. 

He can just get rid of the debt ceiling.

It’s not as if it makes any sense—why require Congress to authorize payments on debt the United States already owes?

Odds are good it won’t happen, but what Obama should do is take the debt ceiling off of the table as a potential weapon, and use the “14th Amendment” option to render it void. For those unfamiliar, a provision in the 14th Amendment holds that “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payments of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion shall not be questioned.”

It was originally included to ensure payment of Union war debts after the Civil War, but no one is entirely sure of what it means for the present period. But, if John Boehner decides to make the debt ceiling an issue, again, there’s no reason Obama shouldn’t invoke the 14th Amendment, and—to borrow a phrase—shut that thing down.

So They Say

"Boehner, Boehner, don’t be a dick, budget cuts will make us sick. Budget cuts are really rude, that’s why we have to be so lewd."
Naked AIDS activists, protesting in House Speaker John Boehner's office today

Daily Meme: Bye, Bye Benghazi? In Your Dreams

  • The New York Times ran a piece this morning about the break-up of everyone's favorite motley band of foreign-policy friends in the Senate, John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and Joe Lieberman, in the wake of Lieberman's retirement. 
  • The two remaining amigos are trudging onward, along with temporary Joe replacement Kelly Ayotte, as they continue the full-court press against U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice's response to the Benghazi attack. 
  • McCain and Graham's efforts to make nice on Sunday now seem like a feint in the aftermath of yet another meeting today ...
  • ... where again, McCain and Graham remain unconvinced by Rice's apologies. 
  • McCain said he was "significantly troubled" by Rice's response, and Graham said, "Bottom line: I’m more concerned than I was before.”
  • In the meeting, Rice stressed the point that she's been making all along: "Neither I nor anyone else in the administration intended to mislead the American people at any stage in this process, and the administration updated Congress and the American people as our assessments evolved."
  • Jay Carney echoed Hillz's potential replacement in a briefing later today: “There are no unanswered questions about Ambassador Rice’s appearance on Sunday shows and the talking points she used for those appearances that were provided by the intelligence community. Those questions have been answered.”
  • But the continued gauntlet means that if Rice were nominated to be Secretary of State, this is only a small glimpse of the hellfire that could be unleashed on the Senate floor. Obama is in a tough spot
  • Ayotte and Graham already voiced their intention to make her confirmation difficult
  • But, Susan Rice is used to facing a hard road, for all we know, the new three amigos' protestations could be all for naught. 

What We're Writing

  • Steve Weinberg asks, if eyewitness testimony is so useless, why are we still using it?
  • Sharon Lerner writes on how Hurricane Sandy saved the Occupy movement. 

What We're Reading

  • Obama's big post-election conundrum that isn't the fiscal cliff? How do you solve a problem like the drone program?
  • Mitt Romney tops GQ's least-influential people of 2012 list. 
  • Jeb Bush, who's been earning some buzz as a potential candidate for the next presidential go-around, gets written off as a Mitt-esque mehderate at The American Spectator.
  • Failure isn't a given in presidential second-terms, writes David Greenberg. 
  • No women will chair committees in the 113th Congress
  • The Washingtonian investigates the "bearable lightness of being Tucker Carlson."
  • Grover Norquist may be going down in flames, Jon Chait writes, but his philosophy still burns bright in the Republican ethos.


Poll of the Day

Approval of Congress continues to drop as the sure-to-be fractious fiscal cliff negotiations ramp up, dropping to 18 percent from the 21 percent rating they pulled prior to Election Day. Congress hasn't pulled over 25 percent approval since December 2009, according to Gallup surveys. Usually when bipartisan dismay at the state of the legislative branch is found during an election, high turnover can be found in Congress, which didn't turn out to be the case in 2012. 

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