Everyone who knows anything about the U.S. legal system knows that Congress has the exclusive power to appropriate money for the government to spend. Right? And we know that the Obama administration is locked in negotiations with congressional Republicans over spending — with the Republicans refusing to raise the government’s authorization to borrow more money unless the White House agrees to more spending cuts.
What you don’t know, though, is that some people — including a law professor at George Washington University — are advancing the notion that maybe Congress doesn’t have to approve the spending anyway.
Here’s the insane theory. After the War Between the States, the 14th Amendment had a clause to make sure that the Union’s war debts were paid. It simply says, “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law … shall not be questioned.” Administration officials as prominent as Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner have raised the possibility of applying that clause to claim that Congress can’t stop the administration from borrowing more money. As insane as that sounds, serious and sober people are advancing the idea with a straight face.