Why the 14th Amendment matters in the debt-ceiling crisis

tags: debt ceiling




As we enter the final countdown in our third debt-ceiling crisis in two-and-a-half years, most of us have heard at least some discussion of Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which dictates that the "validity of the public debt of the United States ... shall not be questioned."

Unfortunately -- and misleadingly -- these mentions have often occurred in the same breath as the notion of minting two $1 trillion platinum coins as a way of magically and comically circumventing the impasse. This has led many to assume that the 14th Amendment's relevance to the crisis is as hypothetical and far-fetched as the wacky coin proposal, amounting to no more than some sort of "silver-bullet" pipe-dream or a liberal academic's Hail Mary pass.

That is wrong. It is true that the majority view, both in legal academia and among President Obama's legal advisors, seems to be that the 14th Amendment provides no easy out for the President as he faces this crisis. It does not, in their estimation, authorize him simply to declare the debt-ceiling a nullity and order the Treasury Department to issue new debt without prior authorization from Congress....



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