House Democrats are urging President Obama to keep his pen handy in case he has to invoke some 14th Amendment remedies to raise the debt ceiling.
House Asst. Democratic Leader Rep. Jim Clyburn said that Obama should be ready to follow in the footsteps of Harry Truman and use the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling,
And so I would say to the President, that if that’s what lands on his desk – a short term lifting of the ceiling – of the debt ceiling. He should put it on his desk next to an executive order that he will have drawn up. And with the same pen that he vetoes that short term debt ceiling extension, he should sign an executive order invoking the fourteenth amendment to this issue. I am convinced that whatever discussions about the legality of that can continue but I believe that something like this will bring calm to the American people, and will bring needed stability to our financial markets.
So, I think that that’s the position we’re in, and I know his reluctance to do that, but I will remind you in closing that back in our history—back in the 1940’s, a great debate was raging in this country as to whether or not in made sense to integrate the armed services—congress wouldn’t do it. President Truman did so by executive order, and that executive order still holds today—and if we can do something as big as bringing stability to our security, as we did with armed services, we can do something big now—and so I would say to the President that short term extension ought to be out, he should veto it if it comes to him, and with the same pen, sign an executive order invoking the fourteenth amendment.
Caucus Vice Chairman Rep. Xavier Becerra said, “I think a very clear message should be issued to Speaker John Boehner: Mr. Speaker, House Republicans have failed to govern, failure is not an option for our country, and therefore you leave it to the President to take whatever action is within his power, by his right under the constitution to move this country forward and make sure Americans do not suffer the consequences of your failure.”
The leadership’s message to Obama was that if he decides to go the 14th Amendment route, they’ve got his back.
Today on the House floor caucus leader Rep. Chris Larson asked Republicans why they were holding the American people hostage,
“Eighteen times the debt ceiling was raised for Ronald Reagan, eight times for George Bush, because they would never stand in this body to see a default on the full faith and credit of the United States. As the world looks in and we default on a global economy and we default and march towards defaulting on a national economy, the most ruinous thing is that we are defaulting on household economies.
“What this body should be focusing on is dealing with this deficit and focusing, as Mr. Becerra said, on the real default that’s taken place in Congress, the lack of job creation, the need to put people back to work so that we can restore the dignity that only comes when people are able to sit across their dining table and look at one another and know that they have the dignity that comes from a job. We need not go through this ideological hostage situation. Why are we holding the American people hostage? Let’s put America back to work. We’re a better nation; we’re a better body than that.”
In a CNN article, constitutional law professor Jack M. Balkin wrote about 3 ways that the president could act unilaterally on the debt ceiling. His analysis of the consequences of invoking the 14th Amendment was,
At this point, the president should ask Congress to ratify his actions by raising the debt ceiling. If they do not, he can continue the process until they do. His actions might set a precedent: Knowing that the president will invoke Section 4, congressional threats of using the debt ceiling to extract political concessions will become a defunct strategy in the future.
In fact, this was one reason why Section 4 was put into the Constitution in the first place.
An angry Congress may respond by impeaching the president. However, if the president’s actions end the government shutdown, stabilize the markets and prevent an economic catastrophe, this reduces the chances that he will be impeached by the House. (After all, he saved the country.) Perhaps more important, the chances that he will be convicted by a two-thirds vote of the Senate, which has a Democratic majority, are virtually zero.
By not saving the Republicans from themselves, Obama could put an end to the GOP’s hostage taking strategy. The consequences for Obama of acting unilaterally are nothing. Any lawsuit that Republicans may file would get thrown out of court. There is precedent for a president taking these very same steps in the past, and strictly in terms of politics, saving the country from economic collapse would be the strongest contrast that Obama could hope to paint between himself and the Republican Party.
It all sounds pretty good politically until the consequences of swimming in the shark infested economic waters for even a week are considered. The main motivation for everyone who wants a deal is that no one knows exactly what will happen if the US defaults, and none of the political leadership wants to find out.
As long as the Tea Partiers keep blocking anything from coming out of the House, there will be no deal. Speaker Boehner had to pull his debt ceiling plan off the House floor due to lack of support within his own party and even an evening of arm twisting couldn’t provide the support needed from his own party.
Obama may not want to act unilaterally, but he may have no choice. If a deal can’t be reached, Obama may have to let the crisis develop in order to save the nation from a catastrophic economic event.
If the Republican dysfunction continues the only thing standing between the United States of America and total economic collapse will be President Barack Obama and his 14th Amendment remedies.