Congress should think twice before forcing a government shutdown as the consequences could be the loss of the power of Congress to control spending through authorization and appropriation bills.
Congress permitted President George W. Bush to accumulate new powers in the executive, and these powers have passed to Obama. Bush succeeded in establishing that as a wartime commander-in-chief he had the "inherent power" to disobey the laws against torture, spying on Americans without obtaining warrants, and indefinite detention. In addition, Bush used signing statements in ways inconsistent with his oath and obligation to uphold the laws of the United States, and he took the U.S. to war based on lies, deception, and fabricated "evidence," an offense that qualifies as treason.
With these precedents, it is a simple matter for President Obama to declare that, with the U.S. at war in a world of growing instability, he has the inherent power to ignore the debt limit and to continue financing the government with the creation of new money by the Federal Reserve.
Congress could try to protect its loss of the power of the purse by impeaching Obama. But how credible would it be to impeach a wartime president who is using the same "inherent power" of his office that Congress permitted the previous president to use?
The powers that Bush asserted not only violated statutory law, but also set aside constitutionally guaranteed rights that are the essence of American liberty. Yet, Congress made no attempt to restrain him with impeachment. How then does Congress impeach a president who is merely using his power to keep a government at war operating?
As President Bush's acts were not deemed impeachable offenses, it seems likely that Congress has lost its power to impeach through default.
Paul Craig Roberts [email him] was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury during President Reagan's first term. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University, and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He was awarded the Legion of Honor by French President Francois Mitterrand. He is the author of Supply-Side Revolution : An Insider's Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet Economy and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy, and is the co-author with Lawrence M. Stratton of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice. Click here for Peter Brimelow's Forbes Magazine interview with Roberts about the epidemic of prosecutorial misconduct.