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Despite some Democratic leaders prompting, President Barack Obama has stated that he will not utilize the 14th amendment in order to bypass congress and raise the debt ceiling. The little known 14th amendment is vaguely worded and legal scholars differ on the whether the amendment would allow the president to continue to borrow or could pose a legal challenge.
On Tuesday, Obama’s spokesman, Jay Carney, seems to dismiss the possibility. “The Constitution makes clear that Congress has the authority, not the president, to borrow money and only Congress can increase the statutory debt ceiling. That is just a reality,” Carney told reporters.
However, House leaders emerged from a caucus on Wednesday and urged Obama to raise the debt ceiling any way possible. If Congress can’t reach a deal on a long-term debt limit increase by Aug. 2, Obama should “sign an executive order invoking the 14th Amendment,” said Assistant Minority Leader James Cyburn (D-S.C.).
“I am convinced that whatever discussions about the legality of that can continue,” Clyburn said. “But I believe that something like this will bring calm to the American people and will bring needed stability to our financial markets.”
House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (D-Conn.) stated that Obama has previously expressed doubts about his legal authority to unilaterally raise the debt limit. But circumstances have changed, Larson said, and “we just want to let him know that his caucus is prepared to stand behind him” if Congress fails to pass a longterm deal.
“We have to have a fail-safe mechanism,” Larson said. “We believe that fail-safe mechanism is the 14th Amendment and the president of the United States.”
Former President Bill Clinton argued last week that the 14th Amendment that states the “validity” of government debt ”shall not be questioned” means that Obama could simply ignore the congressionally imposed debt ceiling and go on borrowing.
A handful of Democrats plan to hold a press conference on Thursday in the capital. The Democrats want to encourage the president to “invoke the 14th Amendment in the absence of a bipartisan agreement to raise the debt ceiling and avoid national default,” according to their press release.