As everyone knows, the debt ceiling debate currently dominates Washington. Even though Obama has said invoking the 14th amendment and bypassing Congress isn’t a “winning argument,” there are those on the left urging him to do so, including a former president:
Former President Bill Clinton would invoke the 14th Amendment — “without hesitation, and force the courts to stop me,” he says — to raise the debt ceiling if he were in President Barack Obama’s shoes.
The question is, does the President have the authority to bypass Congress on budgetary issues and unilaterally raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval?
Well, let’s start with what the 14th Amendment states:
Section 4. 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. But neither the United States nor any state shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
The argument is that since the Amendment states “The validity of the public debt…shall not be questioned…” that the President somehow has the authority to raise the debt ceiling. I’m not quite sure how this is connected, considering the power of the purse and issues of the debt rests solely with Congress, which Article 1 Section 8 as well as Section 5 of the 14 Amendment points out:
Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Nowhere in the Constitution does it say the President has such authority regarding the debts of the United States. To say so is an attempt to severely stretch the interpretation of the Constitution so thin and so vague that it goes against the intention of the founders. They were clear in that the powers of the federal government are anything but vague.
Congress has the authority to borrow or not to borrow. Just because they decide to be fiscally responsible and end the borrowing, the President should not then have the authority to do the borrowing. To have that power would be an unprecedented encroachment of the separation of powers and can very well be considered an impeachable offense.Published in