The Hypothetical Constitutional Crisis: President v. Congress

This is the hypothetical from my Posner and Vermuele post. It got a bit unwieldy (the President sells the White House and barricades himself in the Pentagon..) so I moved it here.

The Executive, invoking the relevant clauses of the Constitution, tells his generals to deploy troops to invade Greenland. They comply because they are probably generally loyal to their commander in chief.

Congress is (mostly) fine with that because they feel they have the power to stop the war conflict situation after a period of time if they are unhappy with it. Of course, Congress is made up of many individuals and some would oppose at the outset, and some would begin to oppose as time goes on. Time passes and they no longer see utility in occupying or having troops in Greenland.

They write a kind letter to the President telling him to withdraw troops because a duly passed piece of legislation requires the President to let Congress declare “actual” wars. The President replies with, “Yeah, no thanks”. Congress then passes a symbolic resolution telling the President s/he is not being a good leader and should let Congress do its job.

Armed conflict in Greenland continues and Congress grows unhappier. They try the fiscal route- they immediately stop all money going to the military (a pretty drastic and politically unsavory option!). The Executive branch has tons of money all over the place so they just shuffle money around. Military still gets paid and they are happy.

Congress goes the judicial route and they sue the President asking the Supreme Court for emergency review. The Court says no thank you, and declines to review the case invoking the political question doctrine. (Or the court says, “Congress is right, President you must stop” and the President stamps “Return to Sender” on the letter enjoining him from continuing the war.)

Congress is now really mad and try a bunch of other things to get the “rogue” President under control. They tell their constituents to write to the President to stop him. For fun let’s say the President is only 1 year in his term, so “tossing the bum out”  through democracy is not an option for at least 3 years.

They then subpoena the leaders of the military to try and bypass the President altogether and get them to withdraw troops. The President tells his generals not to go. Congress sends the Sergeant-at-Arms to go and grab the generals from the Pentagon. The guards at the front door of the Pentagon literally block the way of the Sergeant-at-Arms to stop him from delivering the subpoena. Congress tries to get the courts involved again, and this time a federal court agrees the Pentagon/President can’t quash the subpoenas. But, again they are locked in the Pentagon, so this time the court sends its bailiff and officers of the U.S. Marshalls office from the Justice Department to barge their way in either into the Pentagon. The Pentagon has tanks and soldiers outside the building so nothing happens.

They then impeach and vote to remove the President, which he of course writes off as an illegitimate action and refuses to comply. Congress again send the Marshalls and bailiff, but this time to White House to arrest the President. But, the President has moved into the fortified Pentagon and anyways he sold the White House to pay the troops. If political history teaches us anything, it is pay the troops! Greenland remains invaded. Congress then uses its own money to hire a mercenary army and they send in their troops to fight the Pentagon troops and a great battle ensues…


But in all seriousness, can the President sell or mortgage the White House?


Posted on July 24, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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