Biden opens door to use 14th amendment to solve debt crisis

Author: Yuvi May 21, 2023

President Joe Biden said on Sunday he would consider using the 14th Amendment to solve America’s debt limit but conceded it is probably too close to the June 1st default deadline to use it this round.

‘I’m looking at the 14th Amendment as whether or not we have the authority,’ he said at a press conference in Hiroshima.

‘I think we have the authority. The question is could it be done and invoked in time that it would not be appealed and, as a consequence, pass the date in question and still default on the debt?’

Biden said he would be open to exploring the option in the courts to see if they would rule it legal or not.

The president had previously ruled out using the constitutional amendment – which some legal scholars argue has a clause that would make it unconstitutional for the US to fail to make its debt payments – to raise the debt ceiling.

Biden also accused Republicans of trying to tank the debt talks to hurt his re-election bid, conceded he may be able to stop them from making a default, and said he’ll be stepping in to deal with Speaker Kevin McCarthe one-on- one.

President Joe Biden opened the door to using the 14th amendment to solve the debt crisis

How 14th Amendment Applies to US Debt

Many legal scholars suggest a clause in the 14th Amendment that says the ‘validity of the public debt, authorized by law … shall not be questioned’ could apply to the debt limit.

Legal experts argue that Section 4 of the 14th Amendment allows the Treasury Department to keep borrowing money past the debt limit and that it would be unconstitutional for the US to fail to make payments.

Some Democrats are urging Biden to invoke the constitutional amendment to keep the country from defaulting.

In his press conference, Biden had tough talk for Republicans, slamming them for taking an ‘extreme position’ in the talks and said he would speak to McCarthy from Air Force One as he flew home from Japan.

‘My guess is he’s going to want to deal directly with me in making sure we’re all on the same page,’ Biden said of McCarthy, adding that he believed a compromise remained within reach.

‘I´m hoping that Speaker McCarthy is just waiting to negotiate with me when I get home. … I’m waiting to find out.

The White House had accused House Republicans of taking the talks backwards by refusing their offer to cut spending and instead making what Democrats call outrageous demands to cut the federal budget.

Biden, who announced he’s seeking a second term in office, indicated he thinks politics is at play.

He said if the nation defaults then ‘Biden would take the blame and that’s one way to make sure Biden is not reelected.’

He called on Republicans to compromise.

It’s time for Republicans to accept that there is no bipartisan deal to be made solely – solely – on their parts and terms. They have to move as well,’ he said.

He also expressed some exasperation with the other side, saying he cannot “guarantee that they would enforce a default by doing something outrageous.”

Earlier debt negotiations took a downward turn as the White House accused Republicans of taking a ‘big step’ back in rejecting their offer and McCarthy said talks were on hold until Biden returned from Japan.

Both sides have accused the other of negotiating in bad faith as the clock ticks toward the June 1st deadline to raise the country’s borrowing limit, now at $31 trillion, so the United States can pay its bills. Otherwise it will default on its debt.

A war of words began over the weekend as meetings between the two negotiating teams were canceled, re-scheduled, only to be canceled again.

On Saturday McCarthy said it was the White House who was holding out and that talks were on hold until Biden returns.

‘Unfortunately, the White House moved backwards,’ McCarthy told reporters on Capitol Hill on Saturday. ‘I don’t think we’re going to be able to move forward until the President can get back.’

‘Just from the last day to today they’ve moved backwards. They actually want to spend more money than we spend this year,’ McCarthy said of the talks.

The White House, which had been striking a hopeful tone that a deal was in the works, released a pessimistic statement that accused Republicans of moving backward and preferring a default instead of deal.

‘The Speaker’s team put on the table an offer that was a big step back and contained a set of extreme partisan demands that could never pass both Houses of Congress,’ White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in the statement.

‘It is only a Republican leadership beholden to its MAGA wing — not the President or Democratic leadership — who are threatening to put our nation into default for the first time in our history unless extreme partisan demands are met,’ she said.

Republicans rejected an offer from the Biden administration that would have kept both non-defense and defense discretionary spending flat next year compared with the 2023 fiscal year, according to reports.

The White House argued that, with inflation, that would amount to a 5% cut in spending.

A White House official said Biden was being kept updated on the talks.

‘President Biden has continued to closely track negotiations on a bipartisan budget framework and the pressing need for Congress to act to avert default. He received an update from his team both last night and this morning on the status of negotiations,’ the official said.

'I don't think we're going to be able to move forward until the President can get back,' Speaker Kevin McCarthy said

‘I don’t think we’re going to be able to move forward until the President can get back,’ Speaker Kevin McCarthy said

McCarthy said he wants to cut non-defense spending compared to what was spent in previous years, while Democrats argue that keeping those numbers flat amounts to an effective cut because of inflation.

President Biden appointed a negotiating team and has been checking with them regularly while he is in Japan. The White House said those negotiators are ready to meet with McCarthy’s team at any time.

‘Let’s be clear: The President’s team is ready to meet at any time,’ Jean-Pierre said in her statement.

The two sides are fighting over spending cuts. Republicans are demanding them in exchange for raising the debt limit.

House Republicans passed a bill that would roll back spending to fiscal 2022 levels and impose a 1% cap on spending going forward for a decade. But it was dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The White House has rejected the GOP demands as too extreme but has expressed a willingness to cut some spending.

But as the talks break down the attacks have stepped up. ‘Republicans are taking the economy hostage and pushing us to the brink of default, which could cost millions of jobs and tip the country into recession after two years of steady job and wage growth, White House communications director Ben LaBolt said in a statement Saturday.

‘It was a bad day for negotiations,’ Republican Rep. Dusty Johnson, an ally of McCarthy, told Axios, adding that a ‘lack of seriousness’ from the White House ‘undermined the progress that we had made on Wednesday and Thursday.’

With Republicans holding a mere-five seat majority in the House and Democrats in control of the Senate, any deal must be bipartisan.

In order to get there, the spending cuts must be significant enough to be accepted by conservative Republicans but also acceptable to Democrats, who hold the Senate and will likely need to provide between 50 and 100 votes in the House.

Republicans, in addition to spending cuts, want to increase defense spending in the 2024 federal budget.

Democrats argue in order for that to happen social programs, education and healthcare would have to bear the burden of cuts. The progressive wing of the Democratic Party would not support that.

Additionally, Republicans have refused to roll back the Trump-era tax breaks on corporations and wealthy households as Biden has proposed.

Republican Rep.  Garret Graves of Louisiana, one of the top mediators in the debt limit talks for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, leaves a meeting on Capitol Hill

Republican Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana, one of the top mediators in the debt limit talks for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, leaves a meeting on Capitol Hill

Biden, speaking in Japan on Saturday, expressed hope the two sides can come to a deal.

‘I still believe we can avoid a default and we’ll get something decent done,’ the president said.

Author: Yuvi

My name is Yuvi, I work as Sub Editor at

21 May, 2023, 4:35 pm

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