Rep. James Clyburn and a group of House Democrats are urging President Barack Obama to invoke the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling if Congress can’t come up with a satisfactory plan before the Tuesday deadline.
Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat, said Wednesday that if the president is delivered a bill to raise the debt ceiling for only a short period of time, he should instead veto it and turn to the phrase in the Constitution that says the validity of the U.S. government’s debt “shall not be questioned.”
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“If that’s what lands on his desk, a short-term lifting of the ceiling, the debt ceiling, he should put it on his desk next to an executive order,” Clyburn said at a press conference. “He should sign an executive order invoking the 14th Amendment to this issue.” The Associated Press reported that he was applauded when he suggested the idea at a caucus meeting earlier in the day.
“I believe that something like this will bring calm to the American people and will bring needed stability to our financial markets,” Clyburn added, noting that President Harry Truman did it once during his presidency after Congress was unable to pass a bill to raise the debt ceiling.
Obama and others in his administration have said they will not rely on the 14th Amendment. At a town hall last week, Obama said that he has “talked to my lawyers” and “they are not persuaded that that is a winning argument.”
At his daily briefing Wednesday afternoon, White House press secretary Jay Carney knocked down any suggestion that the president would reconsider.
“Our position hasn’t changed. There are not off-ramps, there’s no way around this, there’s no escape,” Carney said. “You know, having an esoteric constitutional argument won’t reduce the fact that the borrowing authority is due to expire on August 2nd and Congress has the legal authority and only Congress has the legal authority to extend that borrowing authority.”
“The president stood here and told you,” Carney added. “We consulted to see what this was about, but this is not an option.”
But Clyburn and several other liberal Democrats urged the president to reconsider.
“We’re getting down to decision time,” said Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.), the chairman of the Democratic caucus. “We have to have a failsafe mechanism and we believe that failsafe mechanism is the 14th Amendment and the president of the United States.”
Appearing on MSNBC later Wednesday morning, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) suggested that it should be the president’s last resort. “As far as the 14th Amendment is concerned, I urge everybody to get their Constitution and read it. It says the debts of the United States shall not be questioned,” she said.
“If [Republicans] want to make this country a deadbeat nation, this president shouldn’t allow it, none of us should allow it. And I think he should seriously look at whatever options he has.”
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