On his radio show yesterday, Rush Limbaugh made an unfortunate foray into constitutional law, reading from a recent National Review article attacking a constitutional lawyer who will be quite familiar to readers of this blog:
Lo and behold! As we celebrated this Fourth of July amidst the debt ceiling fight, the netroots and progressive pundits suddenly discovered the Constitution’s relevance in fiscal matters. It doesn’t seem that long ago, because it wasn’t that long ago, that they ridiculed the very idea of constitutional limits on Congress in economic policy making. [...] Of the new House rule requiring a statement of constitutional authority for bills, Ian Millhiser wrote at ThinkProgress that “the constitutional lunatics are now in charge of the Republican asylum.” He said it was completely unnecessary for Congress to cite constitutional justification for its actions because Article I of the Constitution gives Congress broad authority and it leaves budgeting decisions almost entirely to the judgment of Congress.
But now that the Republican Congress is exercising this broad authority, Millhiser, and others at the Huffington post and the New Republic, have suddenly discovered that in one instance the Constitution supposedly limits Congress’ economic powers…that section four of the Fourteenth Amendment—the validity of the public debt of the U.S. shall not be questioned, they think that makes the debt ceiling unconstitutional.
I am, of course, honored that Mr. Limbaugh considers me such an important public figure that I deserve mention on his show — my resume will benefit greatly from this new credential — but I do wish he would take the time to find out what I actually think about the Constitution before he discusses my views.
For one thing, I’ve never claimed the debt ceiling is unconstitutional. I did praise the White House when they appeared to be exploring whether the Constitution could save the country from a catastrophic default — a responsible president will explore all possible avenues to avoid disaster, even if some of those explorations prove fruitless — but I also concluded that no one knows whether the debt ceiling would survive constitutional scrutiny because this question has “never been tested in court.”
More importantly, my previous statement that the Constitution “leaves budgeting decisions almost entirely to the ‘judgment of Congress,’” isn’t even vaguely controversial. Article I of the Constitution gives Congress broad authority to “to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States” a provision that, according to conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, establishes that “It’s up to Congress how [it] want[s] to appropriate, basically.”
In other words, Limbaugh’s attack is nothing more than another sign of just how little interest conservatives have in following the actual Constitution. Even the Supreme Court’s most strident conservative rejects Limbaugh’s lunatic view of the Constitution, and yet he insists that there must be something wrong with people who think that we should follow the Constitution as written.