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What Shutdown?
By David L. Ganz, Numismatic News
October 03, 2013

This article was originally printed in Numismatic News.
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The second government shutdown in 17 years leaves the U.S. Mint unaffected as other parts of the government began an orderly process Oct. 1of shutting down those agencies funded by annual appropriations that are not deemed essential.

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Soldiers in Afghanistan will get paid and so will members of the House and Senate. Other federal employees will not be so fortunate.

The Treasury plan of operation says the public enterprise fund operations can be used without congressional approval, even if it is subject to oversight as part of the traditional appropriations process. That also affects the debt ceiling controversy due to peak in a few weeks.

Still lurking in the background is the so called “nuclear platinum option” in which the President directs the secretary of the Treasury, who in turn mandates that the Mint produce one or more trillion dollar coins, deposit it or them into the Federal Reserve, and then use the proceeds to reduce the national debt.

This possible gambit first arose from the 2011 debt ceiling impasse. Then it was treated as a joke.

But now?

The idea might pass technical muster – not without a lot of guffaws – because the law authorizing U.S. platinum coinage gave the secretary of the Treasury permission to specify the size, composition and value of the platinum American Eagle coin.

When the platinum Eagle law was passed, no one ever dreamed it would offer a debt ceiling loophole. Whether trillion dollar coins are fair or even constitutional, Congress ceded the power to the secretary of the Treasury several years ago. That’s when they added subsection (k) to section 5112 of Title 31 of the U.S. Code.

The Act of Sept. 30, 1996, is where the words “platinum bullion coins” were substituted for “bullion.”

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