Debt ceiling: what does the 14th amendment of the constitution say and why is it proposed as a solution?
A group of leaders on Capitol Hill argue that President Biden could use the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution to raise the debt limit.
A growing number of officials on Capitol Hill believe that the president has the power to use the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution to avert a debt default. However, this move is not without its legal skeptics who point to the spending powers the legal document extends to Congress over the executive branch.
During a press conference hosted by Senator Bernie Sanders (VT-I) on the status of the negotiations, Senator John Fetterman (PA-D) described the ongoing talks as “a sad charade” and urged President Biden to consider using the Fourteenth Amendment to avert an economic crisis.
Those supporting this constitutional maneuver include Senator Elizabeth Warren (MA-D), who tweeted that the president should prepare “to exercise his authority,” considering that even a short default could result in the loss of employment for 800,000 workers.
What does the Fourteenth Amendment say about public debt?
The Fourteenth Amendment is divided into five sections, one of which, section four, addresses the topic of public debt.
The text reads:
The second half of the quote governs the position of the US government vis-a-vis the debt taken on by the Confederacy and their fight against the Union. However, the first sentence: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.” Some constitutional scholars, including Jeffrey Rosen, have argued that the president may have the power to increase or ignore the debt ceiling and that if the power were exercised, the Supreme Court would have to consider a formalization of increased power for the executive branch.
Critics of this view, including Standford University Professor Michael W. McConnell, have spoken out against the idea circulating on Capitol Hill. Speaking to MSNBC’s Mendi Hasan, Dr. McConnell said, “The Fourteen Amendment does not mention the president, it does not authorize the presidnet to do anything, and indeed the Fourteenth Amendment Section Four has nothing to do with the debt limit crisis.”
What has the White House said?
The White House has not made its position clear on whether or not it would use the fourteenth amendment to bypass Congress, but Presidnet Biden did tell reporters earlier this week that he was “considering” the option. The president remains hopeful that an agreement can be reached through the traditional channels and would like to exhaust those options before bringing in any new approaches.
Nevertheless, with under two weeks before the limit is set to be reached, according to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the clock is ticking.
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