(CNSNews.com) - The impasse in Washington may have started as an attempt to defund or delay Obamacare, "but it has now taken on the dimensions of a Constitutional crisis," Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Calif.) said in a speech on the House floor Monday.
McClintock argued that President Obama, by threatening that the United States will default on its sovereign debt, is assuming the "power of the purse" that the Constitution explicitly assigned to the Congress.
Conservative talk show host Mark Levin, who played McClintock's speech on his radio program Tuesday night, said if Congress gives the president what he wants -- under threat of forcing the country into default -- Obama will have "neutered Congress."
"He will, in essence, have succeeded in instituting a coup of sorts," Levin said.
In his speech on Monday, McClintock noted that unlike every president before him, President Obama has said that unless Congress unconditionally raises the debt limit, the United States will default on its sovereign debt.
"But a failure to raise the debt limit would not by itself cause the nation to default," McClintock said, because the Treasury Secretary may choose which bills to pay first. He said the Treasury's duty to pay its debtors is underscored by the 14th Amendment, Section 4, which reads in part: "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law...shall not be questioned."
Because revenues far exceed U.S. debt payments, there would be no problem for the U.S. Treasury to make its debt payments before paying other bills -- unless the president deliberately imperils the nation’s sovereign credit. Doing so would be "catastrophic and unprecedented," but McClintock said he thinks Obama might do it.
The congressman pointed to the Democrats' refusal to negotiate with Republicans and the Democrats' refusal to minimize the suffering caused by the government shutdown.
"Given the ruthless and vindictive way the shutdown has been handled, I now believe that this President would willfully act to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States unless the Congress acquiesces to all of his demands, at least as long as he sees political advantage in doing so. His every statement and action is consistent with this conclusion."
McClintock noted that House Republican leaders offered to extend the debt limit to Nov. 22 "with no strings attached," but Obama refused. Senate Republicans offered a six-month extension, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid -- the president's point-man -- refused.
"So where do we go from here?" McClintock asked.
"If the Republicans acquiesce, the immediate crisis will quickly vanish, credit markets will calm and public life will return to other matters. But a fundamental element of our Constitution will have been destroyed. The power of the purse will have shifted from the representatives of the people to the executive.
"The executive bureaucracies will be freed to churn out ever more outlandish regulations with no effective Congressional review or check through the purse. A perilous era will have begun, in which the President sets spending levels and vetoes any bill falling short of his demands. Whenever a deadline approaches, one house can simply refuse to negotiate with the other until Congress is faced with the Hobson’s choice of a shut-down or a default.
"The nation’s spending will again dangerously accelerate, the deficit will again rapidly widen, and the economic prosperity of the nation will continue to slowly bleed away."
Earlier this year, the House passed McClintock's bill guaranteeing that the sovereign debt of the United States Government will be paid in full and on time, under any circumstances -- even total political gridlock. It also allows the Treasury Secretary to exceed the debt limit, if necessary, in order to do so.