Mike Lee: Government Default Unconstitutional, Won't Happen

Wednesday, 09 Oct 2013 10:00 PM

By Jim Meyers and Kathleen Walter

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Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans will allow the nation to default on its debts because it would violate the Constitution, Sen. Mike Lee tells Newsmax.

He also says the Obama administration's decision to freeze death benefits for the families of fallen soldiers is "tragic" — and part of an effort to make the government shutdown as painful as possible.

In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV on Wednesday, Sen. Lee outlines the Republicans' strategy to deal with the shutdown: "Last week the House passed something that would allow us to keep our active duty military personnel paid. It came over to the Senate and in a matter of minutes we passed it unanimously."

Story continues below video.

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"So we've followed that up now in the House by passing several other provisions including one making sure that veterans' benefits will continue to move forward. Another is keeping our national parks functioning. Another is keeping the District of Columbia's government functioning. The list goes on and on," Lee said.

"We need to start passing those and bit by bit we can get the government funded. We can get probably 98, 99 percent of the government funded and then we can focus on the issue where the real controversial points remain."

Concerning the debt ceiling and the possibility of a government default, Lee observes: "I don't think either side will allow the U.S. to default, especially when you understand a default constitutionally isn't even permissible. A default would happen if we stopped paying the interest or principal on our national debt, and the 14th Amendment prohibits that from happening. So one way or another, default is not going to occur."

Lee maintains that President Barack Obama does not have the power to raise the debt ceiling on his own, as some legal scholars have suggested.

"This is a law. It's a law that has to be enacted by Congress," he says. "We have a debt ceiling now and in order to raise it, Congress has to act.

"The 14th Amendment simply says that we have to honor the debts that we as a nation have incurred. But we've got more than enough money coming through the door every month to make sure that we pay the interest and principal owed on our national debt. The amendment does not give the president the power to raise the debt limit on his own."

Lee has said that certain federal agencies have acted intentionally to cause undue hardship to make a political point. One of the worst examples is the decision to freeze death benefits for families of fallen soldiers.

"It's tragic," he says. "It's embarrassing. It is probably the very best argument that anyone could make against Obamacare, or for that matter, against any other significant expansion of federal power.

"We've seen that this administration is willing to utilize the immense power of the federal government in order to make this shutdown as painful for the American people as it possibly can. It's willing to use its own power against the people in order to procure a particular political advantage. That's not acceptable.

"There's no reason why we should be willing to add to federal power control over our nation's healthcare system. When you put the government in charge of something as personal, as intimate as a person's healthcare decisions, you give the federal government immense power that it should not have."

Urgent: Should GOP Stick to Its Guns on Obamacare? Vote Here.

Lee describes the tone the president has adopted in the budget debate as "strident, and he says it is not supported by the American people. "It's a really aggressive approach to say, 'I want you to fund everything or I will allow you to fund nothing — I won't let you do anything at all and I'll make a lot of people suffer in the process.'

"That is not a defensible position. It certainly isn't sustainable, politically or otherwise, and he will come to regret it."

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