McCarthy Scoffs at Idea Biden Can Raise Debt Ceiling Without Congress, Using 14th Amendment

mccarthy debt ceiling 14th amendment
Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

On Tuesday, Joe Biden revealed that he has been considering using the 14th Amendment to circumvent Congress and raise the debt ceiling unilaterally, while he admitted that this is a short-term solution and that the United States is on course to default without congressional action by June.

After meeting with congressional leaders on the debt ceiling, Biden told reporters, “I have been considering the 14th Amendment, and the man I have enormous respect for, Larry Tribe… thinks that it would be legitimate.”

However, “the problem is it would have to be litigated,” Biden elaborated. Additionally, “and in the meantime, without an extension, it would still end up in the same place.”

Pushing The Limits

Biden said he plans to investigate whether the Supreme Court would find that the 14th Amendment permits the president to continue issuing debt until the White House and lawmakers deal with the immediate matter at hand of extending the debt ceiling.

McCarthy, on the other hand, dismissed the notion as futile.

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At the Capitol, he said, “Really think about this, if you’re the leader, if you’re the only president, and you’re going to look at the 14th amendment to look at something like that – I would think you’re kind of a failure of working with people across sides of the aisle, or working with your own party to get something done.”

As worries of a U.S. default grow more pressing, discussions inside the Beltway have heated up over whether or not the debt ceiling is constitutional under the 14th Amendment, which primarily deals with citizenship and was introduced to the Constitution after the Civil War.

Embrace Lawlessness

The central clause of the theory comes from the 14th Amendment, which states that the national debt “shall not be questioned.”

However, some members of the Biden administration have been hesitant to fully embrace the concept, citing concerns about the idea’s legal and economic ramifications.

The only way to preserve the banking system and the economy, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated Sunday on ABC, is for Congress to do its duty by lifting the debt ceiling and allowing us to pay our debts. And it’s important that we avoid having to question whether or not the president has the authority to continue issuing debt. In other words, this would constitute a constitutional crisis.

Without saying it outright, Yellen called it “one of the not good options” if Congress does not act.

A Harvard law professor whom Biden cited on Tuesday was originally opposed to the plan but later changed his mind, saying that while fundamental questions still need to be answered, “they are the wrong ones for us to be asking.”

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In an opinion piece for The New York Times, she argued that the real issue is whether or not Congress has the authority to use a “arbitrary dollar limit” to coerce the executive branch into doing its bidding after having previously approved the spending measures responsible for the nation’s financial crisis.

Yellen has warned Congress that the United States could go into default by early June if the debt ceiling is not raised. Increased interest rates, the loss of jobs, a decline in the stock market, and the postponement of Social Security benefits would all result from a default.

Even after Biden’s Tuesday meeting with congressional leaders at the White House, it doesn’t appear that the parties made any significant forward toward averting a default.

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