Hofstra Law Review
Recent events raise the question of whether two near-failures in what scholars call the "Fiscal Constitution" may plunge the government into paralysis or chaos. In October 2013, a lapse in congressional appropriations shut the government down for two weeks. The shutdown furloughed hundreds of thousands of federal employees. It caused some agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"), virtually to close their doors and to curtail their services.
Simultaneously, and potentially even more devastating, the House of Representatives (alternatively "House") firmly refused during an extremely tense countdown to raise the statutory debt ceiling of the government. When the government hits that ceiling, it cannot borrow any more money. The government cannot meet all of its program obligations-like Social Security-without borrowing. As a result, once the debt ceiling is reached, the government may be unable to meet its debt interest obligations, causing it to default on the national debt. The nation would face calamity. Nonetheless, tremendous national pressure failed to budge recalcitrants in the House until, with the utmost reluctance, the House finally held a vote on October 17 to allow borrowing, just one day before the government would have hit the debt ceiling.
Confronting Chaos: The Fiscal Constitution Faces Federal Shutdowns and (Almost) Debt Defaults, 43 HOFSTRA L. REV. 511 (2014).