After barely catching our breath from last week’s narrowly averted fiscal cliff, we’re bracing ourselves for the upcoming debt ceiling fight. Meanwhile, frustrated Americans, skittish investors, and a bewildered international community wonder why our government can’t get even the simplest things done. Fortunately, there may be a way around the upcoming debate on whether to raise the United States’ debt ceiling, which has gained momentum amongst top Democrats: Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which unequivocally states:
“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payments of pension and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion shall not be questioned.”
When CBS News’ Bob Scheiffer asked House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) what happens when “on March 27, the government basically runs out of money,” on Sunday’s edition of Face the Nation, Pelosi tartly responded:
“Well, you ask the Republicans, because we always passed the debt ceiling when President [George W.] Bush was president, as he was incurring these massive debts and the Republicans weren’t saying boo at the time.”
In other words, Democrats played fair even when the former president and his party got us into an expensive war in Iraq under false pretenses, and now the Republicans should play by the unspoken rules of professional courtesy and return the favor. Raising the debt ceiling has — until the Tea Party took over the GOP — always been a routine congressional procedure for paying back money borrowed by the US Federal Government.
Pelosi then goes one step further and adds:
“In fact, if I were president, I would use the 14th Amendment, which say that the United States will always be paying … I would just go do it.”
Pelosi joins Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Former President Bill Clinton, and US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in recommending this solution to the current stalemate. The 14th Amendment definitely offers the easiest way for our president to bypass recalcitrant Republicans and restore confidence in the US economy. All Barack Obama has to do is invoke the 14th Amendment and order the US Treasury to find a legal way to pay our debt (such as minting platinum coins to deposit in the Federal Reserve).
So, if it’s so easy, why doesn’t our president “just go do it?” First of all, it’s complicated. Clinton and Obama are both constitutional scholars, yet they’ve come to different conclusions about the 14th Amendment. In a 2011interview with The National Memo, Clinton said that he would use the 14th Amendment “without hesitation, and force the courts stop me.” Obama, on the other hand, told The New York Times after 2011’s failed debt ceiling negotiations, “I have talked to my lawyers, and they are not persuaded that that is a winning argument.”
But, really — SURPRISE! — Clinton’s and Obama’s differing interpretations on a president’s authority to invoke the 14th Amendment probably boils down to race. The 14th Amendment was added to the constitution in 1868 during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War. For the former confederacy, Section 4 is just the cherry on top of a huge ice cream sundae of insults. Section 1 extended citizenship to “all person born or naturalized in the United States,” including former slaves; Section 2 revoked the Missouri (3/5th) Compromise to ensure that all citizens (at least male ones) would be equally counted and represented; and Section 3. barred former Confederate rebels from serving in public office.
Perhaps Obama feels justifiably concerned that using the 14th Amendment would prove politically unpalatable for a Congress chock-full of Tea Party racists already frothing at the mouth because he — a black man — sits in the Oval Office. The president also may feel a twinge of regret for helping to pioneer the dubious debt ceiling strategy now employed by the GOP when casting his vote against raising the debt ceiling during his days as a Senator during the Bush II administration.
Here’s the video:
|Elisabeth Parker is a writer, Web designer, mom, political junkie, and dilettante. Come visit her at ElisabethParker.Com, “like” her on facebook, or follow her on Twitter. For more articles by Elisabeth, click here.|