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Why did the Florida delegation vote to stuff the Constitution in the wastebasket?

On October 16, 2013 the majority of the Florida delegation voted to pass the US Senate Budget Agreement. Senator Bill Nelson voted for the agreement and Senator Marco Rubio voted against it. The US House delegation vote on the agreement was 16 for, 10 against and one abstention. The US House vote breakdown is as follows:

Democrats — Brown, Y; Castor, Y; Deutch, Y; Frankel, Y; Garcia, Y; Grayson, Y; Hastings, Y; Murphy, Y; Wasserman Schultz, Y; Wilson, Y.

Republicans — Bilirakis, Y; Buchanan, Y; Crenshaw, Y; DeSantis, N; Diaz-Balart, Y; Mica, N; Miller, N; Nugent, N; Posey, N; Radel, N; Rooney, N; Ros-Lehtinen, Y; Ross, N; Southerland, N; Webster, Y; Yoho, N; Young, X.

The Florida Congressional delegation is lead by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R – FL District 16) and Rep. Alcee Hastings (D – FL District 20).

The immediate impact of passage of the US Senate Budget Agreement was Florida Blue dropped 300,000 Floridians “whose policies the health insurer says aren’t sufficiently comprehensive under the health care overhaul.” There is a longer term impact of the agreement that may have greater consequences in the sunshine state and on Floridians. It is Section 1002 of the Agreement titled “Default Prevention” known as the ‘McConnell rule”. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) leads the Republican minority in the US Senate and first introduced this rule to raise the debt ceiling in 2011, the last time the national debt became a point of contention in Congress. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) wants to make the McConnell rule permanent.

The McConnell rule allows for the President to send a letter to Congress announcing his intent to raise the debt ceiling. The Congress will then consider his request, debate it and vote on a “joint resolution” to “disapprove” the request. There is only one problem. “It would then take a two-thirds majority of Congress to override the president’s increases, just as it would to override a presidential veto,” notes Michael Dorstewitz from BizPac Review.

Betsy McCaughey from the American Spectator writes:

Sunday [October 20th] on Meet the Press, Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York announced he will propose legislation to permanently take control of the debt limit away from Congress and give it to the president. It’s a dictator’s dream come true. The framers of the U.S. Constitution gave Congress alone power to borrow, tax, and decide how public revenues are spent. They wanted to prevent a president from spending excessively and saddling the public with huge debts. That’s what the despotic kings of Europe had done.

Article 1 Sect. 8 states that ‘Congress shall have the Power To lay and collect Taxes … to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general welfare of the United States; To borrow Money on the credit of the United States.’ Schumer’s proposal stuffs the Constitution in the waste basket. It would allow the president to raise the debt ceiling, subject only to a two-thirds vote of disapproval by both houses of Congress. That’s no more constitutional than allowing the president to impose whatever taxes he wants, unless two-thirds of both houses disapprove.

The greater threat to the sunshine state and every Floridian is the future cost of servicing the debt.

McCaughey writes, “The average rate paid for government obligations is a tiny 1.98%, a third of what it was in 2000. When the rates go up, as they inevitably will, servicing the debt could claim 30% or 40% of tax revenues instead of the current 10%. Republican opposition is probably sufficient to stop Schumer’s bill. Nevertheless, these persistent attempts to elude congressional control over borrowing signal a fundamental problem. Though members of Congress take an oath to uphold the Constitution, they don’t mean it.”

Why would sixteen of the members of Congress from Florida want to stuff the Constitution in the waste basket? Why would they take an oath only to break it?

According to McCaughey, “Schumer claims his proposal will protect against a debt default when Congress and the president disagree.” That is exactly why Representative Buchanan voted in favor of the McConnell Rule. Buchanan in a press release stated, “Jeopardizing the full faith and credit of the United States by defaulting on our obligations was not an option. There is no question that we need to reduce spending and balance the budget, but not by degrading America’s credit rating and destroying our credibility.”

McCaughey concludes, “It’s a dangerous remedy. It plays into what President Obama apparently aspires to do — govern by edict. As he has said numerous times, when Congress won’t go along with what he wants, he will get it done on his own. Our system of checks and balances was designed to protect us from such executive overreach.”

Perhaps those who voted in favor of the McConnell Rule are more worried about reelection than their sworn Constitutional duties and responsibilities.

Dr. Richard Swier

Dr. Rich Swier is Publisher of www.DrRichSwier e-Magazine. Twitter: @drrichswier He holds a Doctorate of Education from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA, a Master's Degree in Management Information Systems from the George Washington University, Washington, D.C., and a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts from Washington University, St. Louis, MO. Richard is a 23-year Army veteran who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1990. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for his years of service.

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