The Learning Curve

New tricks for an old dog.

Political pocket pool with the debt limit

Update July 26 – The published Congressional calendar shows the annual August recess beginning on Monday, August 8. If Congress keeps to this schedule, any legislation passed after today will be subject to a Presidential pocket veto during the recess.
Political pocket pool is a pun based on the similarity of the phrases ‘pocket pool‘ and ‘pocket veto,’ and it relates to the current impasse in Washington regarding the debt ceiling. It’s not a good pun, but it’s the best I can do in these extremely distressing times. The ultimate joke, I believe, is on the Republicans.

Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 (Pub.L. 91-510) requires Congress to adjourn, “no later than July 31 of each year.” This aspect of the law is commonly known as the August recess, and it is more than just a tradition. It is the law and part of Congress’s own Rules.

A pocket veto is a legislative maneuver in United States federal lawmaking that allows the President to indirectly veto a bill. Article I, Section 7 provides, in part, “If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.”

This year, July 31 is a Sunday, which means any Bill enacted by Congress in the next few weeks will be subject to a Presidential pocket veto just because of the timing. This also means that if the Congress enacts any law relating to the debt ceiling that the President doesn’t like, the President may be able to effectively veto that Act of Congress by doing nothing.

Former President Bill Clinton recently stated in an interview that he would invoke the 14th Amendment to allow the President to unilaterally raise the debt limit in order to prevent a default, should Congress and the President fail to achieve agreement.  I have previously opined that President Obama cannot use the 14th Amendment because it would spook the bond market, but things have changed. Now, here is how this incredibly stupid game might play out:

Congress passes some variation of Senator McConnell’s plan to delegate to the President Congress’s Article I power to borrow, with additional provisions the President does not approve. Simultaneously, President Obama issues an Executive Order claiming extraordinary powers to borrow under the 14th Amendment. Then the Senate, at least, adjourns for the summer recess as required by law. The President neither signs nor vetoes Congress’s debt limit bill within the time required by the Constitution, but the Senate is in recess, so the pocket veto is in effect. The Treasury Department proceeds to borrow the necessary funds with the express authorization of both  the President and the Congress.

It seems to me that Congressional Republicans have again inadvertently painted themselves into another corner.

U. S. Constitution, Article II, Section 3, the President, ” may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper.”


Written by Tom Fox

07/19/2011 at 9:47 am

Posted in Politics

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