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I heard recently that there's something in the American Constitution (section 4?) that gives the President unilateral right to make decisions on situations/actions that involve threats to the entire US (security, economy, etc) to ensure the people and the country are protected. Does this mean that he could unilaterally decide on budget elements to raise the debt ceiling and to curb/address future deficit situations? ie by eliminating (or just not extending) protection from tax for the rich? Or reduce military spending? Or ... well, whatever it takes? Because it sure looks like the House is incapable of coming up with any timely solution.

And, frankly, not only the US but the world economy is at risk and this all seems very scary.

So, could a constitutionel expert explain whether the President has the authority to avert this crisis unilaterally, if need be?


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Jul. 23rd, 2011 01:34 pm (UTC)
It's been 30 years since my constitutional law course but I'll give it a shot.

Some people have argued that Article 6 of the Constitution means that all debts of the US will be recognized. Obama and his lawyers have ruled that out. Article 6 is pretty specific to the Articles of Confederation, the document that preceded the COnstitution.

Article 1, on the powers of the legislative branch, is pretty specific:

"The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provde for the common Defense...."

It also specifies that all bills to raise revenues must originate in the House of Representatives.

So basically as I see it, no, Obama can't do it unilaterally.

Pretty much this whole mess is Congress' responsibility, as much as they'd like to saddle Obama with it. It's their responsibility to pass a budget. Negotiations are useful, in that the President is less likely to veto a bill he helped shape. But it's Coongress' responsibility as far as I can tell.
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