There has been a lot of talk recently that if congress fails to increase the debt limit Obama should simply tell the Treasury Secretary to ignore it because it’s unconstitutional. Doug Mataconis has a good post on the pros and cons of this argument here. As James Joyner points out Tim Geithner made that very argument yesterday. I see this as a sign that the administration does not think a deal to raise the debt is possible. Ironically this threat might actually facilitate and agreement. There is a lot of politics going on here. There are political dangers for both the Obama administration and the Republicans. A majority of US voters are still opposed to an increase in the debt limit but that will change rapidly when the government services they like and depend on suddenly stop. It might be a political advantage for the Obama administration if the debt limit were to expire since they can decide who gets paid and who doesn’t. If the administration were to ignore the debt limit it would be seen as a power grab. Of course the crazy Republicans in the House would impeach him and we all know how that worked out for them last time so that may be a draw.
That said I think all the talk about the constitutionality of the debt limit is silly. It doesn’t really matter what the constitutional scholars think it’s all about how the Supreme Court will respond. The corporate SCOTUS will respond the way the Chamber of Commerce and the Wall Street banks want them to respond. They will decide the debt limit is unconstitutional.