Legal Experts Say Obama has No Way to Act Alone Regarding US Debt Ceiling
According to legal experts, the White House would be taking a risk if it tries to make a constitutional end-run around Congress’ authority to increase the debt limit of the nation. The “public debt” clause of the 14th Amendment that is often cited by several lawmakers as a legal way for President Barack Obama to circumvent around Congress and work on the debt ceiling as well as avoid defaulting.
The 14th Amendment is known for extending civil rights protections prior to the Civil War. The amendment’s fourth section was made to guarantee Union debt incurred during the war, including compensation due to Union soldiers and their widows.
The clause states, “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”
Last Friday, Senate Democratic leaders told Obama to be ready to take any legal actions to ensure that the United States would not trigger a global economic crisis. President Obama said that he would not negotiate with Republicans in Congress with regards to the debt ceiling.
Democrats want to avoid a replay of the 2011 debt ceiling deadlock that placed the nation in the brink of default. A congressional aide said that using the provision was the only option left to President Obama if Congress doesn’t act on the debt ceiling.
But some legal experts say that the provision of the 14th Amendment doesn’t give President Obama the right to increase or ignore the $16.4 trillion debt limit. They said that the det ceiling is set by statute and the president can’t change statutes unilaterally.
They say that the provision is vague and doesn’t give the president the authority to do anything. It is not a strong legal argument.