Friday, December 07, 2012

Clarity Emerging

Few things are as clear in the drama surrounding the fiscal slope negotiations than the position of  the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives toward cuts in Medicare benefits.   Asked by Greg Sargent Tuesday about the possibility of raising the eligibility age to 67, Nancy Pelosi responded “I am very much against that, and I think most of my members are.   I don’t see any reason why that should be in any agreement.”

So, too, is a plurality of Americans opposed to raising the Medicare eligibility age which, at least in this case, demonstrates that a congresswoman representing San Francisco, California is more in step with the American public than is the President of the United States.

Pelosi also is clear and unequivocal about GOP efforts to use the debt ceiling as a bargaining tool and destructive political weapon.   Sargent reported

Pelosi insisted Congressional Dems would remain firmly behind Obama’s unyielding stance. The Obama administration is pushing for the “McConnell provision ,” which would effectively remove Congress’ authority over the debt ceiling, though Congress could still vote to disapprove of raising it.

”We are on the exact same page as the president on the subject,” Pelosi said.
There is one way she parts ways with Obama on raising the debt ceiling, however: She would invoke the 14th Amendment option  to circumvent opposition, which Obama does not support. Said Pelosi: “I would use the constitution. Of course I would.”

The President who has encouraged the killing of U.S. citizens without authorization, authorized preventive detention of anyone accused of even a remote connection to terrorism, stymied Freedom of Information requests, expanded domestic espionage, pursued unprecedented prosecution of whistleblowers, all the while creating a "parallel track of preventative law enforcement that bypasses traditional protections in the Bill of Rights" (in the words of law professor Jack Balkin)- that President-  draws a line at the debt ceiling. Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment will not be invoked by a Chief Executive who in the service of strengthening the national security state will stretch the Constitution nearly to beyond recognition.  Rather, we have  learned

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."

After Republicans yield on upper-income tax rates and Democrats give them a cut in the Medicare program (if not in benefits themselves), the President will declare victory and most Democrats will follow suit.  It will be worth remembering, therefore, that at this relatively early date the House minority leader wanted President Barack Obama, the leader of her Party and of the nation, to accrue to himself as much bargaining power as possible.   And to remember also that the President rejected this opportunity out-of-hand, preferring not to negotiate from the position of strength needed to protect the middle class.

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