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Home U.S. Despite Debt Limit Deal, 14th Amendment Questions Linger

Despite Debt Limit Deal, 14th Amendment Questions Linger

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The deal President Biden struck with House Republicans to raise the debt ceiling is aimed at avoiding a catastrophic default on the national debt. But the brinkmanship that saw the US default on its bills within days has renewed calls for the Biden administration to stop the debt ceiling from remaining a political tool.

Biden did just that when he declared earlier this year that he would not negotiate spending cuts in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. The deal includes capping spending and curtailing some of the president’s policy priorities in exchange for suspending the debt ceiling for two years.

The bill, which the House plans to put to a vote on Wednesday, reopens the door to a permanent leveraged debt ceiling that allows minority parties (in this case, Republicans) to use borrowing caps. To extract legislative concessions.

This raises the question of whether there is a way to prevent new incidents like this one by abolishing the debt ceiling or using the 14th Amendment to make the statutory ceiling unconstitutional.

Biden chose not to challenge the constitutionality of the debt limit this time around, but last week suggested he had the authority to do so and said he may seek to enforce it in the future. suggested.

“My hope and intention, once this issue is resolved, is to find grounds to take to court to determine if the 14th Amendment can actually stop this issue,” Biden said. . He made the remarks at a press conference in Japan after the leaders of the seven major nations met.

The president said on Sunday that the debate over whether to invoke the 14th Amendment was not urgent. “That’s another day,” he said.

Invoking the 14th Amendment has emerged as a potential solution to avoid future debt limit battles. That’s because the article includes a clause that “guarantees the validity of the legally recognized public debt of the United States, including debt incurred for the payment of pensions and incentives.” No merit is required in suppressing riots or rebellions. ”

Some legal scholars argue that the provision overrides statutory borrowing limits set by Congress that can be lifted or suspended only with the approval of legislators.

The Biden administration has considered using the 14th Amendment to circumvent Congress, saying it is illegal for the federal government to fail to pay its bills on time.

How and when Biden seeks to put that legal test to work will depend on how his legislative agenda holds up in a potential second term, and how minorities risk default. It could influence how future presidents proceed with budget negotiations if they appear prepared.

The Justice Department suggested this week that the Biden administration wants to keep its legal thinking on the matter private.

Earlier this month, the National Civil Service Association Labor Union filed a lawsuit in Boston District Court to challenge the constitutionality of the debt limit law and prevent the federal government from suspending certain operations for violations of the debt limit. asked.

A federal judge will respond to the lawsuit by Tuesday and give the Justice Department a written opinion on whether the 14th Amendment requires the president to continue borrowing to pay his bills despite the statutory debt limit. I was asking you to explain.

But after the deal was reached, the ministry’s lawyers asked for a hearing scheduled for Wednesday to be postponed.

Judge Richard Stearns agreed to the indefinite stay, allowing the Biden administration to avoid revealing its legal basis.

The move disappointed some progressive groups who have called for the administration to invoke the 14th Amendment to quell the debt limit struggle.

“The question of whether and how the debt ceiling can be legally applied is not only a matter of current turmoil, but of a Biden-McCarthy deal that is expected to continue until 2025,” said Liberal Director Jeff Hauser. It also has to do with the chaos we set up at the beginning of the year.” revolving door project. “We will not stop taking hostages until a court decides that the debt ceiling is unenforceable because of its inherent contradictions and the apparent effect of the Fourteenth Amendment and its current provisions.”

On Tuesday, Missouri Republican Rep. Jason Smith, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said his party plans to continue using the borrowing limit as leverage. “The debt ceiling should be the mechanism that forces us to come to the negotiating table on how to deal with Washington’s spending habits,” he said.

Biden administration officials are studying the merits of invoking the 14th Amendment, but the federal government has tried to evade Congress, even if the federal government appears to be paying reparations. They have expressed concern that using the article could lead to legal battles, heighten uncertainty, and disrupt financial markets and the economy. debt.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said earlier this month that invoking the 14th Amendment, which ignores the debt ceiling, is “legally questionable.”

Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told CNN last week that the Biden administration has no intention of invoking the 14th Amendment, saying, “The president and Treasury secretary have made it clear that this will not solve the current problem. I think there is,” he said.

White House Budget Director Shalanda Young on Tuesday shrugged off questions about removing the debt ceiling, saying the focus was only on getting the bill to Mr. Biden’s desk and avoiding a default.

A White House press secretary declined to comment on how Mr. Biden will test the 14th Amendment issue in the aftermath of the debt limit battle.

Lawrence H. Tribe, emeritus professor of law at Harvard University, said Biden would not seek guidance from the courts even if the administration issued a legal opinion through the Office of General Counsel, which argued that the debt ceiling was not capped. said it was too late. constitutionality.

“I don’t think there’s a judicial solution down the road because courts can only get involved if it’s a real problem,” Tribe said.

Tribe argued that Biden should tell Congress that the U.S. will pay all bills when they are due, even if the Treasury Department has to borrow more than Congress has indicated. He suggested that it was left to the discretion of lawmakers. Act to resolve the conflict between approving spending and setting limits on how much the government can borrow to pay for that spending.

While this debt limit conflict appears to have been resolved, there are future conflicts lurking. The deal would suspend the borrowing limit until January 2025, leaving Biden to face the threat of early default if he wins a second term. .

As such, the civil servants union intends to pursue the case and give the court an opportunity to consider its merits.

“This weekend’s announcement of a debt ceiling agreement does not address our concerns about federal employee union members and federal lawsuits,” union chairman David Holway said. “If this deal is passed before the June 5 deadline, Congress is just making a futile plan that will usher in another crisis in the near future.”

It added, “As long as the Debt Limitation Act remains in its current state, this political football will continue to threaten Member States and countries.”

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