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Thursday, October 3, 2013
Shutdown: What If the End Game Looks Like This?

I was going to leave the Obama-as-tyrant theme alone for a while,  since he fairly reliably keeps it alive himself. But then I started thinking about the present government shutdown and wondering what the end game looks like. Ahem.

Do you suppose anyone at the White House is drafting a speech like the following for our president to deliver in a couple of weeks? This assumes that the White House and Senate Democrats continue to reject any compromise, and the Republicans find and/or keep their spines.

If you are new to the blog, please don't suspect that the arguments in this speech are my own. If you're not new to the blog, you already know they are not. If you're troubled by the 14th Amendment argument, look at Section 5, which empowers Congress, not the president, and consider that the real issue with the debt ceiling is not borrowing to pay existing debts, but borrowing to pay for future expenditures. If you wonder how I justify calling President Obama a tyrant and assuming here that he will continue to act accordingly, read my last two blog posts, starting here.

My Fellow Americans:

The shutdown of the federal government, which petulant Republicans in the House of Representatives have forced upon all of us, continues into its fourth week. We've gone beyond the embarrassment of Republicans shutting down national monuments and parks, so our veterans, who have spilled their blood in our defense, have to crash barricades just to see war memorials here in Washington. We're beyond the despicable Republican act of shutting down essential services such as medical research and passport applications. We're beyond the Republican crime of forcing federal workers and their families to go without pay for weeks. We've beyond even the national security implications of the Republicans in Congress furloughing many of our crucial national intelligence workers.

We're beyond all of that now. What we have now is a full-blown national emergency. Two days from today, unless we act, the federal government will be forced to default on its obligations to its creditors, because the Republicans in Congress refuse to allow us to act responsibly and increase the debt ceiling. The economic and national security implications of this are staggering, and, frankly, intolerable.

In a national emergency, the President must act even if Congress refuses to. Therefore, if Congress has not finally passed and sent to my desk by 3 p.m. Eastern Time tomorrow a continuing resolution to fund the government and additional legislation to raise the debt ceiling, I will declare a state of national emergency and order the debt ceiling increased, and I will deem the Senate version of the continuing resolution to be passed and will reopen the government.

I'm quite certain that the Republicans will wrap themselves in the Constitution, as they always do when it serves their partisan rhetoric, and complain that these presidential actions are unconstitutional. In fact, they are constitutional. Section 4 of Amendment 14 requires that the US government honor its debts, and I will be acting in compliance with that. But let us go beyond arguments about the text of the Constitution for a moment. Even without the 14th Amendment, there are compelling reasons and ample precedents for this action.

As Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson wrote in 1949, the Constitution was never intended to be a suicide pact. When childish Republicans in Congress use constitutional mechanisms to bring this nation to the brink of destruction, the President of the United States has to be the adult in the room. Presidents have done this before, when the welfare and survival of the nation was at stake.

When Thomas Jefferson was president, he saw the absolute necessity of making the Louisiana Purchase, which our ambassadors to France had negotiated, even though he personally doubted that the Constitution gave the president the authority to do it. He later explained:

Strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the highest duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, and property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means.

When President Lincoln found it necessary to suspend the right of habeas corpus during the Civil War, he asked, "Are all the laws, but one, to go unexecuted, and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?"

With our looming, Republican-led emergency, it is my duty to act in the spirit of Jefferson and Lincoln and to follow their examples, for the survival of our country. This would be true even if we didn't have the Fourteenth Amendment.

I have told you what I can do. I know that many of you are wondering what you can do to help the nation we love so much. Here's one of the most important things you can do:

Among some of our allies with parliamentary systems, prime ministers have dissolved parliaments, when those parliaments shut down their governments, and new elections were held to replace them. Our Constitution does not establish a parliamentary system, so, under the Constitution, I do not have that authority. You do. So I ask you to do what I cannot: for the good of the people of the United States, at the next election, turn the House Republicans, who have led us to this crisis, out of their seats once and for all, and elect some responsible legislators for our nation.

Now, the House of Representatives has passed the entire continuing resolution except for funding the Affordable Care Act. The Senate has passed the entire continuing resolution, including funding of the Affordable Care Act. So both houses of Congress agree on funding the government, except for that one thing. So I will deem that legislation as having passed both houses and reopen the government. As for the portion on which House Republicans disagree with the United States Senate, I will deem the Senate version passed, because it contains funding for the Affordable Care Act. I choose this because the Affordable Care Act is already the law of the land, and therefore must be funded.

Here is one more thing you can do, and you can do this one today: Take a minute to thank Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for his heroic leadership in these difficult months. Send him a letter, call his office, send him an e-mail or a tweet. He's the greatest majority leader the Senate has ever had.

My fellow Americans, thank you for your steadiness in the face of our common enemy, the lawless Republicans who have created and prolonged this crisis. Thank you for your confidence in our nation and our future.

God bless you, and God bless America!

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