by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Andrew McCarthy of National Review Online details a disturbing legal development in the debt ceiling dispute.
A federal workers’ union pleading with a Clinton-appointed judge to issue an advisory opinion that a Democratic president should invoke a frivolous constitutional theory to ignore binding federal law. What could go wrong?
Politico reports that federal District Judge Richard Stearns in Boston has set a hearing for next Wednesday in a lawsuit in which the National Association of Government Employees is seeking a preliminary injunction to require Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to continue paying government salaries (among other bills) even if the statutory debt limit (signed by President Biden in 2021) is breached. Though Yellen has dubiously claimed that the government would have to default on June 1 (the day after the hearing) if the debt limit has not by then been raised by statute, the union insists that the 14th Amendment empowers Biden unilaterally to ignore the debt limit and issue bonds not authorized by Congress to raise whatever must be raised so the government can keep spending.
Since Biden has not actually taken any action yet, and since federal courts are not supposed to issue advisory opinions — they have jurisdiction to address only concrete cases and controversies — I fail to see what there is for Judge Stearns to schedule a hearing about, let alone to rule on.
It is unclear whether, in the next week, the debt limit will be raised by Congress. As we know, the Democrat-controlled Senate (taking its cues from the Democratic administration) has failed to act on legislation passed by the GOP-controlled House that would raise the limit in conjunction with cuts that are quite modest given how out of control spending is. (The national debt accumulated from 1787 through 2000 was $5.7 trillion; in the last 23 years it has ballooned to over $31 trillion with more trillions anticipated over the next decade.)