As President Obama hopes for a “positive” meeting today with top lawmakers from both parties while discussing the budget deficit and the possibility of raising the debt ceiling, there are already rumblings of impeachment before any executive decisions have been made. The stakes in this issue are high, and whatever is decided about the debt limit has the potential to affect every U.S. citizen, which has stirred strong emotions, especially in the GOP party.
In less than four weeks, the U.S. government will not be allowed to borrow more money because it will reach its statutory debt limit, or ceiling. There isn’t enough funding to pay the debt and government programs, and the president is attempting to gain bipartisan support to raise the debt ceiling in order to borrow more money and avoid defaulting on these financial obligations.
Obama has proposed increasing taxes and reducing the deficit through revenue derived from ending tax subsidies, which GOP leaders are opposed to. Republican lawmakers are calling for cuts to programs like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare as a trade off for allowing the government to raise taxes and borrow money to prevent a devastating default.
As the deadline looms, the debate continues, with some looking to the Fourteenth Amendment as a possible loophole to the stalemate that would enable Obama to circumvent the need for congressional approval of the debt limit by selling Treasury bonds to finance government operations.
While Obama has never spoken about wanting to enact this executive order, U.S. Representative Tim Scott took the discussion a step further by suggesting that the president be impeached if he raises the debt limit in this manner. This has left many wondering if there is any validity to Scott’s claim, or whether the staunch conservative congressman has gone too far by embarking on an unnecessary witch hunt that is taking the focus away from what matters most — the future of the nation’s economy.
On Tuesday, Rep. Scott spoke to a group of Tea Party supporters, and when asked about his thoughts on the possibility of the president enacting the Fourteenth Amendment, he immediately gave his response.
“There is some truth to it,” he says in a video of the meeting that was posted online. “There is some proof that the president is using congressional oversight to find a way to get it done without us. My position is that that is an impeachable act from my perspective.”
His comments set off a firestorm on the Internet, with people taking to social media and news websites to share their views about Scott’s suggestion.
“Representative Scott needs to read Section four of the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution…and then Scott needs to remember the oath he took when he entered Congress and rethink his unsubstantiated position on impeaching the president for honoring HIS oath of office,” wrote FogBelter, a frequent contributor on the Huffington Post.
In an op-ed piece on The Root, Nsenga Burton expressed her thoughts on the comments as well. “Impeachment for the president?” Burton writes. “Why not removal of the Republicans who lobbied for and insisted on the tax cut for the wealthy while holding the nation hostage, which resulted in needing the debt ceiling raised?”
“Rep. Scott has a whole lot of nerve — standards for the president, but none for himself or his party. Constantly denigrating President Obama while requiring nothing of his empowered white colleagues in office is weak, at best. Clearly, black on black crime is not only happening in the hood.”
As reported on theGrio, Scott made history by being the first black Republican elected to Congress from South Carolina since Reconstruction after defeating the son of Senator Strom Thurmond, who was a well-known segregationist. Although he made headlines for turning down an invitation to join the historic Congressional Black Caucus and has often landed in hot water for his strong conservative stance on issues like labor, welfare and immigration reform, he has also been applauded for beating the odds as a black GOP congressman. In December 2010, he supported a tax cut deal brokered by the president and Republicans.
“I think it is a step in the right direction, but it does not create the kind of long-term investment strategy that investors like to see in order to create jobs,” he told theGrio. “I certainly think that dealing with the tax cut issue now eases the burden on persons making $60,000 a year or less and it also does the same for those earning above that middle income level. Tax cutting relates to the whole soul of economic freedom in this country. I hope it will encourage spending and increase investment in the American economy.”
Yet despite this particular effort to cut taxes, many still believe that Republican-backed fiscal policy has largely been directed toward the top 5 percent of the population and unfairly punishes lower income groups, while rewarding the financial and corporate elites. According to the Daily Journal, Republicans increased the national debt limit five times during the Bush administration, and some see their unwillingness to discuss the possibility of tax cuts and rollbacks of tax subsidies to the top 2 percent as a form of institutionalized hypocrisy.
And even though Scott has been embraced by the Republican Party and is endorsed by the Tea Party, no other GOP leader has touched the subject of possible impeachment, and Sen. John Cornyn even came out and called it “crazy talk” to consider the enactment of this executive order.
During a recent interview with Fox News, John Cornyn, a former Texas Supreme Court Judge, warned Obama to not even think about interpreting the constitutional amendment to raise the debt limit with Congress’ approval.
“That’s crazy talk,” he said. “It’s not acceptable for Congress and the president not to do their job and to say somehow the president has the authority then to basically do this by himself.”
In what could be considered a rare occasion, the president seemed to agree with Cornyn. During a Twitter town hall that was held yesterday, the president was quick to dismiss the need to allow the debt-ceiling discussion to include the possibility of enacting the Fourteenth Amendment. After someone in the Twitterverse asked him if he would “issue an executive order to raise the debt ceiling,” the president said, “We shouldn’t even get to” that constitutional argument and warned that Congress “shouldn’t be toying with” the debt limit.
“The debt ceiling should not be something used as a gun against the head of the American people,” he said, while an official response tweet from the White House read, “U.S. default can’t be threat for protection of tax loopholes for very richest Americans.”
While the negotiations are still underway, whatever decisions are made will impact the livelihoods of every citizen, and the failure to reach an agreement about the debt ceiling could hurt those who are already reeling from the bad economy. And no matter what other monkey wrenches are thrown in the mix by Scott or anyone else, the fact of the matter is that a decision needs to be made quickly because the lack of a balanced approach to the debt limit will have far-reaching consequences for every American.