Neil Buchanan and Michael Dorf make what I think is a valid point – effectively the combination of the US debt ceiling, taxation and spending create a conundrum for the President where he has to act unconstitutionally in one or more areas. That is, to break the debt ceiling would be to usurp Congress’ borrowing power. To increase taxation would be to usurp Congress’ taxation power. And to cut spending would be to usurp Congress’ spending power.
This is another form of the impossible trinity (the traditional form being the impossibility of having a fixed exchange rate, free capital flows and independent monetary policy).
While Obama can rightly be criticised for his spending proposals, the fact is they passed Congress and are law.
Congress itself, not the President, has created the problem where the debt limit will be reached and perhaps breached. The President has no power to unilaterally cut spending – he has taken an Oath to faithfully execute the laws of the United States and those laws include all of the outrageous spending appropriations made by Congress.
Congress is playing brinkmanship with itself as well as with the President.
My prediction: those Congressmen who are blocking an increase in the debt ceiling will blink. To do otherwise would be a grave error and a self-inflicted disaster for the United States. Sure the US needs to get its Government spending under control, but that will require the consent and active participation of the Congress itself which ordered all of the spending.
Politicians want to be re-elected. To drive the United States into a disastrous default (whether of Government debt or of other payments) would ensure the rapid defeat of those politicians who precipitated the crisis. It won’t be Obama that’s blamed for the resulting chaos.