Yesterday’s actions in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate regarding the U.S. debt ceiling were depressing signs of the dysfunctionality of our system of government.
In the House Speaker Boehner rejected my advice to craft a truly bipartisan bill to increase our debt ceiling. Instead he added another provision to his bill to gain additional support from the Tea Party members for passage of the Republican measure to increase the debt ceiling. That new provision would require Senate and House approval of a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution before there could be a second increase in the debt ceiling, presumably next year. Even with that provision, the bill was only approved 218 to 210. (In the House, a simple majority is necessary; that currently is 217.)
This is not any way to go about amending our Constitution, in my opinion. Such action should be done calmly and cautiously, as suggested by the constitutional requirement for a two-thirds vote in each house for such amendments. There should be fair and open hearings in both houses of the Congress for careful consideration of the pros and cons of any proposed amendment, including this one. Such has not happened on this proposal. Although I have not studied this particular proposed amendment, I am very skeptical of the merits of the idea for two main reasons. First, I believe it would be difficult to run the federal government under such a system. Second, Keynesian economics suggests the need for the federal government to run deficits during economic recessions.
Now attention turns to the U.S. Senate which yesterday immediately tabled this House bill, 59-41.
Thus, we now enter the world governed by the abominable Senate Rules. Yesterday Majority Leader Reid made a motion to limit debate, and under Senate Rules the earliest that motion can be voted upon is tomorrow (Sunday) at 1:00 a.m. Passage of that motion requires 60 votes, meaning that if all 53 Democratic and Independent Senators support the motion, seven Republican votes are needed for that motion to be adopted. Yesterday Senator Reid said he did not yet have the 60 votes needed for cloture. If the cloture motion is adopted, then under the Senate Rules there has to be 30 hours available for debate, meaning that the earliest the Senate could vote on the merits of the Reid debt-ceiling bill would be 7:30 a.m. on Monday (August 1). (In the unlikely event of unanimous consent, the measure could be voted on before then.)
If somehow the Senate actually adopts a debt-ceiling bill, then it has to go back to the House for its approval by 217 votes. If all the 193 Democratic representatives supported such a bill, then at least 24 Republican representatives would have to join them in order for it to pass the House. Is that possible? (I shudder to think that the House would pass a slightly different bill that would require a conference committee and subsequent votes by the two houses.)
World financial markets already are signaling the adverse impact of an U.S. failure to increase the debt ceiling and an U.S. default on its obligations.
I pray that my analysis is wrong and that somehow by next Tuesday both houses of Congress can pass a debt-ceiling bill that President Obama can sign into law.
 See Post: Disgusting U.S. Political Scene (July 23, 2011).
 See Post: A Message for Speaker Boehner (July 29, 2011).
 Hulse & Pear, Senate Quickly Kills Boehner Debt Bill, N.Y. Times (July 29, 2011).
 U.S. Const., Art. V. Actually such action by the two houses of Congress would result in a proposed amendment that would have to be approved by three-fourths (or 38) of the states in order for the constitutional amendment to be adopted. (Id.)
 See Post: The Abominable Rules of the U.S. Senate (April 6, 2011).
 Helderman, Senate headed for critical vote Sunday, Washington Post (July 30, 2011).
 Yesterday, the House Republicans said that they would have a symbolic vote today to show that the Reid approach to debt ceiling cannot pass the House. (Hulse & Pear, Senate Quickly Kills Boehner Debt Bill, N.Y. Times (July 29, 2011).)