The Left's 14th Amendment Lie
July 11, 2011
RUSH: John in Houghton, Michigan. Great to have you on the EIB Network. Hi.
CALLER: Thanks, Rush. Appreciate you taking my call.
RUSH: You bet.
CALLER: I read an article this weekend. I think there's another option for Obama to claim victory here, and one is if he can weaken Boehner, like you've said, then he wins. The other option is, according to the article I read, there's some language in the 14th Amendment that prohibits any law that would enable the federal government to do business, and it was tested in 1935 by the Supreme Court, and recently Treasury officials have floated this as an idea through back channels saying, you know, actually the whole debt ceiling discussion in itself is unconstitutional, and if they can't come to an agreement --
RUSH: Hang on just a second. Where are you reading that from?
CALLER: I read that online. It was on Drudge, there's a link from Drudge about the constitutionality of the debt ceiling discussion, I followed the link.
RUSH: Did you read the link underneath it?
RUSH: Well, the link underneath it points out what a bunch of poppycock folly that is.
RUSH: You read an AP story that came straight from the White House.
RUSH: If you hang on, not on the phones, I promise you I will lead the next segment with this and I will show you how that option is a lie, how it is a fraud, and how it is nothing more than a White House construct. They're basically saying the 14th Amendment has a clause in there that nobody's ever noticed before, that empowers the president to spend money, and the Congress can't say anything about it. Imagine, shazam. An official Washington and the think tanks are trying to make this true. It's a lie, and I'll explain why at the top of the next hour.
RUSH: Now, this 14th Amendment story that our last caller called about, it's a preposterous idea. There's a notion here that somewhere in the 14th Amendment it says the president can spend money without Congress knowing about it or approving it. The idea is preposterous, and it was first floated as a trial balloon on a bunch of left-wing blogs, from the White House. The White House put it out, the left wing blogs run with it, then the AP picks it up as though it's a genuinely referenced and sourced story from constitutional scholars. Then it goes into the Democrat Party's political machine. Now Geithner is denying he ever supported the idea, but he did. Geithner was one of the guys first talking about its possibility.
Now, some legal experts believe that he could, Obama, citing the 14th Amendment, adopted in 1868, "The validity of the public debt of the United States authorized by law shall not be questioned." And there's more to this. There was a great piece at NationalReview.com on Friday by John Berlau, who was the director of the Center for Investors and Entrepreneurs at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, and his piece was entitled "Constitutional Nonsense on the Debt -- Lo and behold! As we celebrated this Fourth of July amid the debt-ceiling fight, the netroots and progressive pundits suddenly discovered the Constitution’s relevance in fiscal matters. It doesn’t seem like that long ago -- because it wasn’t that long ago -- that they ridiculed the very idea of constitutional limits on Congress in economic policymaking, and even mocked the GOP’s public reading of the Constitution at the beginning of the current session.
"Of the new House rule requiring a statement of the constitutional authority for bills, Ian Millhiser wrote at ThinkProgress that 'the constitutional lunatics are now in charge of the GOP’s asylum.' It was completely unnecessary for Congress to cite constitutional justification for its actions, Millhiser proclaimed, because 'Article I of the Constitution gives Congress broad authority' and 'leaves budgeting decisions almost entirely to the judgment of Congress.' But now that the GOP Congress is exercising this 'broad authority' ... Millhiser, the Huffington Post, and The New Republic have suddenly discovered that in at least this one instance, the Constitution supposedly limits Congress’s economic powers. Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which states that 'the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law . . . shall not be questioned,' makes the debt ceiling itself unconstitutional."
The left-wing blogs started out by saying that. That section 4 of the 14th Amendment, "the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law . . . shall not be questioned." They think that makes the debt ceiling is unconstitutional. "Folks who were railing against the 'unitary executive' a few years ago now argue that if Congress doesn’t give Obama what he wants, this section gives him the constitutional authority to issue new debt by himself; otherwise, there would not be enough money to pay the existing debt, and the 14th Amendment does not allow that. Just a few months after arguing majestically about how the Constitution puts virtually no limits on the 'judgment of Congress,' Millhiser now hopes the White House begins 'seriously exploring whether the Constitution will save America’s economy from the GOP’s extortionary tactics.'" And then Mr. Berlau cites even more from left-wing bloggers at FireDogLake and some other places.
And then writes, "This tortured interpretation of the 14th Amendment actually shows why members of Congress ... should have participated in the public reading of the entire Constitution earlier this year. If they had done that, they might not have skipped over an essential passage regarding the power to borrow." Essentially what we have here is another bunch of lies and an attempt to deceive by a bunch of people that think the Constitution is worth nothing more than toilet paper except when they want it to be gold. Totally in order to advance an unconstitutional idea, put out blog posts and get the media, the Democrat Party to pick it up, that the Constitution says something that it doesn't. I mean the height of dishonesty.
"They might not have skipped over an essential passage regarding the power to borrow. Article I, Section 8 -- the same part of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to tax, appropriate, and 'regulate commerce." It also states, "'The Congress shall have power to ... borrow money on the credit of the United States.' The 14th Amendment doesn't affect that power one bit." The Congress shall have the power to borrow money on the credit -- not the president. And the 14th Amendment doesn't affect that at all. "It applies only to debt 'authorized by law,' and as Catholic University Law School distinguished scholar John S. Baker wrote recently in NRO, 'Only Congress -- not the president -- makes law.'
"What it perhaps does do -- based on one Supreme Court case -- is require the Treasury Department to prioritize payment of existing debt to bondholders over other spending in the event the debt ceiling isn’t raised. So if the government finds itself short on cash, it has to keep paying the bondholders," as we said Friday, "and find the necessary savings in some other part of the budget." This is exactly what will happen if we don't raise the debt ceiling, just like the Monopoly game I described to you. "This is exactly what conservatives like Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) have been trying to codify through legislation. As Michael McConnell, the distinguished director of the Stanford Constitutional Law Center, has put it, 'the real effect of Section Four of the Fourteenth Amendment is almost the opposite of what hopeful voices in Washington are saying.'"
Let me excerpt this because it goes on for a couple of pages, cites Supreme Court case, "Perry v. United States may require paying bondholders first, but it does not allow the issuing of new debt without congressional authorization." The Supreme Court does not, that one case that they're citing does not give the president any authority. They've made it up. They're totally lying about this, and any of you who have bought this 14th Amendment business know that it is bogus.
"So far, the new constitutionalists have found just one Supreme Court case that purportedly supports their case for borrowing without congressional authorization: Perry v. United States, 294 U.S. 330 (1935), a case challenging the Roosevelt administration’s repudiation of a 'gold clause' in a U.S. bond. But the Court’s opinion in this case reaffirms that only Congress can approve the issuance of new debt. 'In authorizing the Congress to borrow money, the Constitution empowers the Congress to fix the amount to be borrowed and the terms of payment,' the Court stated. The Court also ruled that the U.S. government can’t shirk its obligations to bondholders from existing debt, a point that, if held as binding precedent, works to conservatives’ advantage. As Professor Baker noted, the ruling is somewhat ambiguous. The plurality opinion did not rule that the plaintiff was entitled to payment in gold, but merely upheld the obligation of the government to pay the bondholder in 'legal tender currency.'"
Here's another thing. Public debt does not include government benefits. Now, this is a biggie, and this is a Supreme Court ruling. "Progressive constitutionalists argue that the term 'public debt' embraces every transfer payment of every spending program under the sun. But the Supreme Court has already shot down the argument that government benefits -- even if they are labeled 'entitlements' -- represent contractual obligations." He cites the case here.
So the bottom line is, folks, that the 14th Amendment does not authorize the president to spend money or issue new debt. The one Supreme Court case that they cite actually affirms the opposite. A 1935 Supreme Court case ruled that the debt ceiling is constitutional. You say, why are they confused? They're not confused. They're playing games. They are lying. They are trashing the Constitution. They know that their position is in quicksand. They are trying to make conservatives believe, because they've made fun of us for being constitutionalists, so they think the only way they can get us is to say the Constitution says, "Hey, you guys, the Constitution says our guy can borrow money." It does not say that. In fact, it says the opposite of what the left is trying to make it sound as though it says.
RUSH: Here it is, folks, I mean very simply from that Supreme Court case, Perry v. the US in 1935. "The power given Congress to borrow money on credit of the United States is unqualified and vital to the government, and the binding quality of the promise of the United States is the essence of the credit pledged." Again this was a case, a bondholder wanted to be paid when his bond matured in gold, and the Supreme Court said the government pay him in whatever medium they damn well felt like as long as it was legal, said screw you, buddy, if they to want pay you in dollars, they're gonna pay you in dollars, they don't have to give you gold. But the case was not about which branch of government can borrow money per se. I mean did the Bush administration come up with these cockamamie theories when the Democrats voted against raising the debt ceiling? No. It's only the dishonest left that comes up with this kind of stuff. But trust me, there's nothing to it.