Our View: Leave debt ceiling authority alone

Dec. 06, 2012 @ 01:00 AM

It will require some give and take among Democrats and Republicans in Congress and President Obama to negotiate a settlement to the looming “fiscal cliff” crisis and allow the country to keep functioning past the end of this year.
But there is one aspect of fiscal policy currently mixed up in the debate that simply should not be changed – authority over raising the nation’s debt ceiling.
As part of his proposal for avoiding going over the cliff, President Obama wants the authority to raise the amount of money the federal government can borrow – currently set at $16.4 trillion – without first getting approval from Congress. Proposals from the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives would keep the longstanding requirement that an increase in the national debt ceiling be approved by Congress.
The discussion over this point hasn’t gotten as much attention in the media as the rhetoric from both sides over such matters as tax rates for upper income people, proposed spending cuts and the president’s proposal for $200 billion in new “stimulus” funding. But it seems this debate would be more of a Congress vs. the president issue than a Democrat vs. Republican matter.
This is more a question about which branch of the federal government has ultimate authority in a decision such as this, and we’d side with Congress. Sure, members of Congress will fuss and fight – and might even do a little political posturing – in debate whenever a decision over raising the debt ceiling might arise. But giving the president, and we’re meaning ANY president here, the unchecked authority to borrow money whenever he or she feels like it is a bad move.
It seems that even current Democrats in Congress would want this authority to rest in the hands of the Congress and not the president because of the potential political impact. If a sitting president of either party would recklessly spend and raise the debt ceiling, surely a member of Congress of the same party would fear retribution for such action at the hands of voters in his or her district.
In today’s climate of economic uncertainty and overspending, it’s unwise to put so much monetary power into one politician’s hands. The president, the Democrats and the Republicans can avert the fiscal cliff by compromising on any number of points, but authority to raise the debt ceiling should not be one of them.