A couple of weeks ago, we noted that public officials did more poorly on a civics survey than the general population, with only 49% of elected officials surveyed able to correctly identify the three branches of government — from a multiple-choice list. Add Chuck Schumer to that list. Not only does he incorrectly declare that the three branches of government include the two chambers of Congress and the President, he also completely mischaracterizes the debate on which he blows his civics lesson (via Greg Hengler):
So I would urge my Republican colleagues, no matter how strong they feel — you know, we have three branches of government: we have a House, the Senate, we have a President, and all three of us are going to have to come together and give some. But it is playing with fire to risk the shutting down of the government, just as it is playing with fire to risk not paying the debt ceiling.
For those who went to the same schools as Schumer, the three branches of government are the executive (run by the President), the legislature (which includes both the House and the Senate), and the judiciary. One might have assumed that an attorney like Schumer would know that the judiciary is the third branch of government. Imagine if Sarah Palin had said this; it would be on continuous rotation at MSNBC.
But even apart from that, Schumer still doesn’t have a point. No one is saying that we shouldn’t pay the debt ceiling. There isn’t anyone rooting for default in either party. The question before Congress is whether we will raise the debt ceiling in order to allow the government to borrow even more money. If Congress doesn’t raise it, the US won’t be able to sell more debt, which means that it will have to stop paying on its obligations, although those decisions can be prioritized to put off defaulting on existing bonds, at least for a short period of time.
Perhaps Schumer should familiarize himself with the actual issue at hand, but first, can we get a remedial Civics 101 course for members of Congress?