Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner read aloud from the Constitution at a Politico breakfast last month.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — Amid fears the United States risks default if lawmakers don’t raise the debt ceiling on time, some are suggesting President Obama could save the day by big-footing Congress.
How? By invoking the Constitution and directing Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner to keep borrowing even if it means going past the statutory borrowing limit.
Really? They say default — and by extension, the debt limit — violates the 14th Amendment.
The amendment states: “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.”
The idea first gained currency when legal scholar Garrett Epps and fiscal expert Bruce Bartlett asserted that the president could invoke the 14th Amendment.
Epps, writing in the Atlantic magazine, noted the amendment’s stark language. “It’s not hard to argue that the Constitution places both payments on the debt and payments owed to groups like Social Security recipients … above the vagaries of Congressional politics.”
He concluded: “If Congress won’t pay them, then the executive must.”
Bartlett, in a Fiscal Times column, noted that much of the public debt is held by foreign investors, meaning a default would global ramifications. And he cited warnings from top officials that it’s a threat to national security.
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