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Archive of entries posted on July 2011

Would it be “Unconstitutional” to Veto a Debt Limit Increase?

From the President’s veto message: This bill would make it almost inevitable that the Government would default for the first time in our history. This is deeply irresponsible. A default has never happened before, and it should not happen now. I have repeatedly urged the Congress to pass promptly legislation raising the debt limit for [...]

Has Obama Already “Invoked” the Public Debt Clause?

Jack Balkin says yes. Balkin argues that by telling bondholders that they will get paid regardless of whether the debt limit is raised, the President is implicitly invoking the Public Debt Clause. I say no (or, rather, not necessarily). One could construe the existing statutory scheme to permit prioritization wholly apart from any constitutional issue. [...]

Prioritizing Payments if the Debt Limit is Reached

This CRS report from early June discusses a number of legal and policy issues (not including the Public Debt Clause) that would arise should Congress not raise the debt limit. Of particular interest is its discussion of the Treasury Secretary’s authority to prioritize payments once the debt limit is reached: Some have argued that prioritization [...]

Can Representative Waters Take the Ethics Committee to Court?

According to this Politico story, “Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) is threatening to take the House Ethics Committee to federal court if the secretive panel charges her with any violations of House rules.” This statement appears to reflect a misunderstanding of a letter sent by Stan Brand, Waters’s attorney, to the chairman and ranking member of [...]

OCE Funding in Jeopardy?

Update: OCE funding survives. Daniel Schuman reports. There is going to be a roll call vote tomorrow on an amendment offered by Representative Mel Watt to reduce the budget of the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) by 40%. Daniel Schuman of the Sunlight Foundation sounds the alarm. Representative Watt may have legitimate concerns with OCE [...]

CREW Has Some Explaining To Do

Note: CREW declined comment on this blog post.       On June 14, 2011, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) against Speaker of the House John Boehner. The complaint alleged that the Speaker had violated the Anti-deficiency Act, 31 U.S.C. § 1341(a), by directing the [...]

A Thought on the Public Debt Clause and Article VI

It seems fair to say that the Public Debt Clause will get more attention from scholars in the next few years than it did for its first 145 years of existence. In that connection, I want to suggest that Article VI, clause 1, deserves some thought. That clause provides that “[a]ll Debts contracted and Engagements [...]

Congressional Lawyers Gone Wild


The First Witness at the Clemens Trial

The prosecution opened the Clemens trial today by having Charles Johnson, former House Parliamentarian and one of the world’s leading experts on the House of Representatives, read House Mouse, Senate Mouse to the jury. Ok, I am making that up, but it was pretty close. The first exhibit offered by the prosecution was the U.S. [...]

Is a House Vote Required to Release the Clemens Tape?

Last week the Clemens defense team asked the judge to grant it access to the audiotape of the February 5, 2008 deposition in which congressional staff questioned Clemens regarding his use of steroids. COGR had previously provided the prosecution and defense with the transcript of this deposition, at which Clemens made many of the alleged [...]