Boehner’s ‘lame-duck’ opportunity:  Suspend the debt ceiling

November 5, 2015 is debt-limit doomsday. Congressional dysfunction is again pushing the nation to the edge of a sovereign-debt default. The Tea Party tail is wagging the GOP dog.  House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBoehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader Scaramucci compares Trump to Jonestown cult leader: 'It's like a hostage crisis inside the White House' MORE (R-Ohio) is a lame duck.  And the Obama White House begs Congress to stop “monkeying around.”  What a circus -- this nation needs real leadership.  

The statutory debt limit was again hit on March 16.  For seven months, Treasury has used accounting shenanigans (“extraordinary measures”) to forestall a full default (such as pilfering government workers’ TSP retirement accounts).  Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew again warns about “catastrophic” consequences of a debt default if Congress allows a full breach of the debt ceiling. Meanwhile, some House Republican are so committed to their debt-default-denial delusions that they are fragging their own leadership. Our dysfunctional government has again placed our national economy in serious jeopardy.

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In July, the Government Accountability Office issued a shocking report detailing the substantial public and private costs of the 2013 debt ceiling crisis.  The GAO, the nonpartisan auditing arm of Congress, found that 25 percent of all U.S. Treasury debt was effectively degraded to “at-risk” status during the 2013 debt ceiling conflict.  Uncle Sam’s once “risk-free” Treasuries joined that “at risk” category of debt issued by the likes of Argentina, Greece, and Detroit. 

The debt limit statute is so harmful, that, as a Treasury bondholder, I filed a 2014 “test-case” seeking to void the unconstitutional law and prevent its further enforcement.  (The litigation seeks to encourage other bondholders and states to follow suit).  The debt limit statue is in patent conflict with the Fourteenth Amendment’s Public Debt Clause.  My lawsuit alleges that, as a holder of public debt, I suffer current and impending future harm resulting from the invalid statute’s devaluation of the securities and degradation of their low-risk profile.  In a recent Washington and Lee Law Review Online article, I detail the litigation’s progress (or lack thereof) as it is presently before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  For the immediate future, however, the debt limit’s status, and thus the health of the national economy, rest solely in the hands of John Boehner.  

The House leadership conundrum makes BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBoehner reveals portrait done by George W. Bush Meadows to be replaced by Biggs as Freedom Caucus leader Scaramucci compares Trump to Jonestown cult leader: 'It's like a hostage crisis inside the White House' MORE an inverse-lame-duck. He now has unique power and opportunity.  Boehner can present a clean debt limit suspension bill to the full House; the suspension should last well past the 2016 elections.  (The partisan Hastert Rule must go the way of a dirty gym towel.) There are more than enough moderate Democratic and Republican House members to pass such a suspension.  Over the loud protests of Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz endorses GOP candidate for Senate in New Hampshire Missouri Republican wins annual craft brewing competition for lawmakers GOP signals unease with Barr's gun plan MORE (R-Texas) and his ilk, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPatagonia says to shut stores for a few hours during Global Climate Strike Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Pelosi unveils signature plan to lower drug prices | Trump says it's 'great to see' plan | Progressives pushing for changes On The Money: House votes to avert shutdown, fund government through November | Judge blocks California law requiring Trump tax returns | Senate panel approves three spending bills MORE (R-Ky.) would follow Boehner’s leadership.

As former Republican congressman turned Chapman Law School Dean Tom Campbell recently argued:  “In his final month, Boehner has the opportunity to be speaker of the House of Representatives: all 435 of them, not just the Republicans.”  John Boehner will never be listed among the greatest or most powerful of House Speakers  -- Henry Clay, Joe Cannon, Sam Rayburn.  However, for that one bipartisan act to insure America’s economic stability, history would rightfully be kind to the Republic’s 61st Speaker.

Williams is an attorney in Washington D.C. and clinical assistant professor at Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law. Williams founded The American Institute for Disruptive Innovation in Law and Politics -- DisruptiveJustice.org.