The United States Congress is currently facing a critical deadline to raise the federal government’s debt ceiling, which stands at $31.4 trillion. The Treasury Department has warned that if Congress fails to act, the country could be unable to pay its bills as soon as June 1. This would lead to a severe financial crisis that could have a ripple effect on the global economy. However, some legal experts suggest that President Joe Biden could avoid this crisis by invoking the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. But is this option feasible?
What is the 14th Amendment?
The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1868 after the Civil War. It was primarily designed to protect the civil rights of former slaves and to ensure equal protection under the law. However, Section 4 of the Amendment is also relevant to the current debt ceiling crisis. It states that “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.”
What does it mean to invoke the 14th Amendment?
To invoke the 14th Amendment, President Biden would declare that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional and that the United States must continue to pay its bills to avoid a financial crisis. This would essentially bypass Congress’s authority to set a limit on the country’s debt. The argument would be that the 14th Amendment requires the country to pay its debts regardless of any statutory limits set by Congress.
Is this option feasible?
While some legal experts suggest that invoking the 14th Amendment is a viable option, there is considerable debate on the matter. Some argue that the Amendment only applies to debts that were incurred to suppress insurrection or rebellion, which is not the case with the current debt. Others argue that the Amendment is not a blank check for the President to ignore Congress’s authority on fiscal matters.
Furthermore, even if President Biden were to invoke the 14th Amendment, it is unclear whether it would have the desired effect. It could potentially trigger a legal battle that could ultimately end up in the Supreme Court. This would only further delay the resolution of the debt ceiling crisis and could lead to even greater economic uncertainty.
What are the other options?
If invoking the 14th Amendment is not feasible, what are the other options available to President Biden and Congress? One possibility is for Congress to raise the debt ceiling before the June 1 deadline. However, given the current political climate, this may not be a straightforward process.
Another option is for the Treasury Department to prioritize payments to avoid defaulting on the country’s debt. This could involve delaying payments to other areas of the federal government, such as defense and social programs. While this could prevent a default, it could have negative consequences for those programs and the people who rely on them.
As the deadline for raising the debt ceiling approaches, the U.S. Congress and President Biden face a difficult decision. While invoking the 14th Amendment may seem like a simple solution, it is not without controversy and potential legal challenges. Ultimately, it may be necessary for Congress to come to an agreement and raise the debt ceiling to avoid a financial crisis.