Should Obama raise the debt ceiling himself, Humphreys expects that the GOP House would attempt to impeach the president and that impeachment proceedings would blow up in the GOP’s face:
[I]f the Tea Partiers impeach President Obama, it will be hard to persuade anyone not suffering from epistemic closure that two Democratic Presidents in a row just happened to deserve impeachment. The public’s attention and attributions would shift to the radicals in the Republican ranks: Why have these people impeached every Democratic President elected in the last 20 years?
… Presidential impeachment would thus, like everything else the Tea Party is currently doing, be popular in their echo chamber but help convince the rest of the country that they are a dangerous and irresponsible force in U.S. politics. It’s not therefore something that Obama should fear. Indeed, he might even welcome it.
Eric Posner reviews the ways Obama could justify unilaterally raising the debt ceiling. Perhaps the most promising option:
[T]he president can declare an emergency and justify borrowing by citing reasons of state. What exactly he should say is a political, not legal, matter. The declaration could be garlanded with quotations from the founders, or festooned with solemn appeals to the examples of Lincoln and FDR who also acted unilaterally in the face of crisis. The president could invoke his “inherent” executive powers under Article II of the Constitution (which vests the president with mostly undefined “executive” powers); he could even cite the 14th Amendment or offer a strained interpretation of the relevant statutes or don whatever other leaves his lawyers pluck from the potted fig trees kept at the ready in the White House Counsel’s office.
But whatever he says, the reality and the implication will be that the law has run out and he is acting in the common good because Congress has plunged the nation into a crisis.