One of the key pieces of the package President Obama put forward yesterday to deal with the so-called “fiscal cliff” is a permanent end to the debt ceiling. It would make increases in the ceiling effectively automatic, subject to a veto by two-thirds of Congress.
This proposal did not just prompt howls of protestations from conservatives — it also produced a remarkable failure amongst politicians and journalists alike to understand the basics of government financing and the Constitution’s separation of powers.
In the Washington Post yesterday, Lori Montgomery called the idea “an effective end to congressional control over the size of the national debt.” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) railed against it as “a blank check.” Timothy Carney, a journalist for The Washington Examiner, lamented the legislature ceding power to the executive, effectively “castrating” Congress.
But the worst example of the theme arrived this afternoon, when Fox News host Megyn Kelly asked Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) about the White House’s debt ceiling proposal:
MEGYN KELLY: What do you make of [the President's] request to cut the Congress out of the process when it comes to raising the debt limit? He wants a blank check now to just raise it when he needs to. Your thoughts on that?
SEN. JOHN CORNYN: Well it’s outrageous. It’s like saying we’ve maxed out our credit card, so I’m gonna get a new credit card with no limit so I can keep spending. There needs to be some accountability here. So far were spending 42 cents out of every dollar in Washington in borrowed money. And that’s money that our kids and grandkids are gonna have to pay back. It’s profoundly irresponsible. So that’s a crazy idea, and I’m amazed that Secretary Geithner had the, uh, courage to float that yesterday.