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Congress: Breaking down the 14th Amendment argument

“Senate Democrats on Wednesday embraced a budget proposal that is significantly to the left of President Obama’s plan on raising new tax revenues,” The Hill writes. “The prospects of the blueprint passing the Senate are bleak, but its emergence after months of negotiation is aimed at countering GOP criticisms that Democrats haven’t passed a budget in two years. The budget plan would reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years, according to the baseline used by its author, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.). Using the benchmark assumptions of Obama’s fiscal commission, Conrad said his budget would reduce the deficit by nearly $5 trillion.”

Roll Call: “A flat-rate spending-cut plan advocated by tea partyers is gaining fans in Washington, D.C. The One Cent Solution requires Congress to reduce federal spending by 1 percent — one cent per dollar — of gross domestic product annually until 2018. That would take it from 25 percent of GDP to 18 percent, where it would be capped to balance the budget. … The 1 percent cut would be about $150 billion based on last year's GDP.”

“If President Obama should invoke a clause in the 14th Amendment in order to bypass Congress and borrow beyond the debt limit, at least one conservative Republican lawmaker would consider that an act worthy of impeachment,” The Hill writes. “Speaking at a Tea Party event in a suburb of Charleston, S.C., Rep. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) said it would be an ‘impeachable act’ for the president to find a way around Congressional authority to raise the debt ceiling.”

NPR had a good segment yesterday breaking down the 14th Amendment with George Washington University law professor Jeffrey Rosen. They looked at why it was crafted and the one Supreme Court case that deals with it at all: “There's just one Supreme Court case that seems to cast light on this question. It was called Perry versus United States,” Rosen said. “It was decided in 1935. And in that case, the Supreme Court seems to argue that this debt clause should be interpreted broadly rather than narrowly. And supporters are seizing on that language to say we should not construe the debt clause strictly, but instead, construe it expansively.”

He concludes: “We shouldn't for a moment dismiss the possibility that serious constitutional arguments about clauses that haven't thought of for a long time can transform political debates. In Bush v. Gore, in the healthcare argument, these are all cases where the constitutional arguments were made up on the fly. But that doesn't mean that they're not plausible. The truth is that the situation today is similar, although not identical to the one that confronted the nation right after the Civil War. And the arguments on both sides are strong, plausible and deserved to be debated in the public arena.”

“Congress spurred the Roger Clemens perjury trial, nearly scuttled it and will play a major role in the case against the baseball star,” The Hill writes. “The trial, which began with jury selection Wednesday in a federal court in Washington, centers on the former ace’s testimony to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in February 2008.”