House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Friday that Congress should hand over to President Barack Obama the power to unilaterally increase the limit on the U.S. government’s debt.
In effect, under the plan Pelosi is endorsing, the only limit on the national debt would be President Obama’s willingness to borrow money in the name of American taxpayers.
At a Friday press conference, a reporter asked Pelosi if she agreed with a proposal made by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner that Congress give Obama the power to unilaterally increase the debt limit.
“Yes,” she said.
The Constitution expressly gives the power to borrow money to Congress – not the president. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 2 says: “Congress shall have power… To borrow money on the credit of the United States.”
When he met with members of Congress on Thursday to discuss a deal to avoid the so-called fiscal cliff that is set to occur at the end of this year, Secretary Geithner suggested that Congress give Obama the personal power as president to lift the legal limit on the federal government’s debt.
In keeping with its constitutional power to borrow money on the credit of the United States, Congress periodically enacts legislation authorizing the president, through the Treasury, to borrow money up to a certain set limit. Pursuant to a deal negotiated by Obama and House Speaker John Boehner in August 2011, Congress enacted legislation increasing the debt limit by $2.4 trillion to a maximum of $16.304 trillion In the 16 months since Congress gave the administration that $2.4 trillion in additional borrowing authority, the Treasury has almost exhausted all of it. As of the close of business Thursday, it had only another $110 billion left.