Readers Interpret Yellen #1

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From TPM Reader CB

Josh, I know I’ve written to you previously about this issue, but this Yellen statement is astounding. If this is their plan, it’s a disastrous plan.

It will make enemies of those who get the short end of the stick, and ingrates of the others. The Republicans, however, will love the plan, because it leaves Biden twisting in the wind, while Republicans cackle and criticize and say to the American people, “Biden is doing this to you. All he has to do is sign on to the House bill and everyone gets paid.”

By the way, why does anyone think the Republicans wouldn’t absolutely love this development: Chaos and incompetence brought to the American people by Sleepy Joe and the 6 other dwarfs all named Dopey. 

The only plan that makes sense – as I have been urging for months – in both a constitutional and political sense is section 4 of the 14th Amendment. Biden can invoke it in an Executive Order that is described as temporary for the emergency and is to be sunsetted the moment Congress sends a debt limit bill to the President and he signs it.

Since it’s clearly a temporary act, Biden doesn’t even need to declare the debt limit law unconstitutional; all he has to say is that the Executive Order is carrying out the 14th Amendment’s constitutional mandate, which neither Congress nor the courts can erase. By inference, he would be daring the Supreme Court to try to stop him, although he need not say that. Neither the Congress nor the Court can physically require him to stop paying the bills; he’s the one who gives Yellen her marching orders to pay every bill and continue the sale of Treasury bills. Let the Republicans try to impeach him.

In short, Biden must take action to keep the bills being paid. Full stop. He can win the fight if he keeps bill payments going, but he loses it he does anything other than that. One of the reasons that Biden is doing so poorly in the polls is that Democrats don’t think he is tough enough. The Yellen plan would just prove those critics are right.

I don’t know what would happen in the scenario CB describes. But it’s worth noting that this scenario is broadly similar to the various government shutdown crises we’ve seen over the last 30 years. In each of those shutdown standoffs, in which a Democratic President has always been facing a GOP Congress, or one house in GOP hands, voters have consistently blamed Republicans. The reason they’ve blamed Republicans is one Republicans have had a surprisingly hard time grasping. Republicans get blamed because they did it. It’s really not more complicated than that. The dynamics are not perfectly similar, of course. It could play out differently. But history does give us some guide here and it doesn’t back up the idea that voters will blame the President.

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