(UnitedVoice.com) – The 14th Amendment is most famously known as the one that provides equal rights to everyone in the United States. It’s one of the Reconstruction Amendments that was implemented after the end of the Civil War.
Written within is another clause dealing with the country’s debt. As President Joe Biden and Congress wrangle over the debt ceiling, this particular section of the Constitution is getting a lot of attention. The POTUS is also on the receiving end of criticism for saying he might invoke its powers.
Section 4 Public Debt
The Amendment contains language that says the “validity” of the debt the United States has incurred, which was authorized by Congress, “shall not be questioned.” The theory is that the president could use it to argue that the limit is unconstitutional since it creates a limit on how much money the Treasury can borrow to pay the debt the government already authorized.
On May 9, Biden hosted a meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to discuss a plan to pass a bill to increase the debt ceiling. According to reports, it did not prove fruitful.
Biden spoke to the press after the gathering was over. He said that he has been considering invoking the 14th Amendment and that legal scholar Larry Tribe believes he could do so if necessary. However, the POTUS said it would be litigated, and the country would remain in the same place while the courts handled the case.
— CSPAN (@cspan) May 9, 2023
Speaker McCarthy spoke to reporters about the situation. He said Biden would be “kind of a failure” if he were the only president to invoke the 14th Amendment rather than “working with people across sides of the aisle.”
McCarthy isn’t the only person who thinks it’s a bad idea to use the Amendment. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen spoke about it on May 11 at a news conference in Japan. She dismissed the idea of using it, calling it “legally questionable whether or not that’s a viable strategy.”
McConnell also spoke out about the issue, saying Biden “unconstitutionally acting without Congress is not an option.”
Expats have explored the option of invoking the 14th Amendment before. In 2011, during another debt ceiling fight, then-President Barack Obama said he’d spoken to his lawyers about the possibility, but “[t]hey are not persuaded that that is a winning argument.” Two years later, he spoke about it again and said it could “make people nervous” because it would be “tied up in litigation for a long time.” Biden was, of course, the vice president at that time and involved in the negotiations.
Yellen has warned that lawmakers have until June 1 to raise the debt ceiling.
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