90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
The Debt Ceiling And The Constitution

On the coming debt ceiling battle, the President says he won’t be held hostage by Congress.  But is there any constitutional way for him to avoid a standoff?

In this Dec. 5, 2012, photo, President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the "fiscal cliff" at the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers, in Washington. (AP)

In this Dec. 5, 2012, photo, President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks about the “fiscal cliff” at the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers, in Washington. (AP)

Like it or not, we’re about to have another donnybrook, another battle royal, over the fiscal life of this country. Call it the debt ceiling cliff, or whatever you like. Within weeks, the Treasury Department will be unable to borrow or spend to fulfill American obligations.

Congressional Republicans say that means the power is now theirs, to demand spending cuts. The president says he won’t negotiate or be held hostage. What does the constitution say?

This hour, On Point: before the storm, we’re looking at the law, the constitution and the American debt ceiling.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Michael Dorf, professor of law at Cornell University. Co-author, with Neil Buchanan, of the Columbia Law Review article “How to Choose the Least Unconstitutional Option: Lessons for the President (and Others) From the Debt Ceiling Standoff.”

Michael McConnell, professor of law and director of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford University. Senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

From Tom’s Reading List

Columbia Law Review  “We argue that the president should choose the “least unconstitutional” course—here, ignoring the debt ceiling. We argue further, though more tentatively, that if the bond markets would render such debt inadequate to close the gap, the president should unilaterally increase taxes rather than cut spending. We then use the debt ceiling impasse to develop general criteria for political actors to choose among unconstitutional options.”

National Journal “As the country nears the fiscal cliff, it’s deja vu all over again. Republicans are now asserting that they will refuse to raise the debt ceiling if they don’t get their way in the negotiations. In response, some Democrats want President Obama to invoke the 14th Amendment and raise the debt ceiling unilaterally.”

NPR “White House spokesman Jay Carney put an end to intense speculation Thursday about whether President Obama would do an end run around Congress with one simple line: ‘This administration does not believe the 14th Amendment gives the president the power to ignore the debt ceiling — period.'”

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
ONPOINT
TODAY
Jan 28, 2015
Vice President Joe Biden speaks at Pellissippi State Community College Friday, Jan. 9, 2015, in Knoxville, Tenn. (AP)

The promise of free community college. What it might mean for our economy and our fraying social contract.

Jan 28, 2015
tasty

Did our sense of taste make us human? From evolution to culture, a new book explores the science and perception of flavor.

RECENT
SHOWS
Jan 27, 2015
As any ant knows, building a reliable team can be hard. (Flickr / Guildmn20)

From Silicon Valley to your office, some teams work better – and smarter – than others. We’ll look at the surprising reasons why.

 
Jan 27, 2015
Leader of Syriza left-wing party Alexis Tsipras speaks to his supporters outside Athens University Headquarters, Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. A triumphant Alexis Tsipras told Greeks that his radical left Syriza party's win in Sunday's early general election meant an end to austerity and humiliation and that the country's regular and often fraught debt inspections were a thing of the past. (AP)

A leftist victory in Greece, and anti-austerity pushback across Europe. We’ll ask where this goes.

On Point Blog
On Point Blog
Our Week In The Web: January 23, 2015
Friday, Jan 23, 2015

New thoughts on Facebook, new analysis of State of the Union twitter activity and new weekend excitement. New! And exciting!

More »
Comment
 
Meet On Point’s Interns: Spring 2015
Friday, Jan 23, 2015

Good news! We have interns, and they are wonderful, and here they are for the spring term. Meet them digitally, right here.

More »
2 Comments
 
Caller To Author Ron Rash: ‘You Cared About People Like Me’
Thursday, Jan 22, 2015

An unexpected caller from South Carolina brings back guest Ron Rash’s years as a community college professor in a movingly real way.

More »
1 Comment