As negotiations between Congress and the White Home over the debt ceiling proceed, some proceed to argue that the President ought to invoke the 14th Modification as authority to avoid the debt ceiling. As I famous earlier than, this isn’t a brand new debate, however the claims proceed.
In Thursday’s WSJ, College of Virginia legislation professor Saikrishna Prakash explains why “neither the Structure nor the legislation nor widespread sense” helps the argument that the debt ceiling will be disregarded. Professor Prakash begins with the textual content:
The 14th Modification is commonly cited however hardly ever quoted. Part 4 each repudiates Accomplice debt and guarantees to honor U.S. debt. The supply at difficulty offers that the “validity of the general public debt of the USA, licensed by legislation . . . shall not be questioned.” Part 4 would not tackle default or different failures to honor phrases of a debt contract. It bars repudiation. A debtor who’s late on a fee is not questioning the debt’s validity; he’s merely tardy. To my data, nobody on both aspect of the talk is suggesting that the U.S. repudiate its debt.
Additional, even when one assumes the 14th Modification bars debt defaults, it nowhere authorizes the president to take no matter measures he deems mandatory to stop default. It no extra empowers him to take such measures than it does you or me. As per the Structure, Congress, not the president, has the facility to “borrow cash on the credit score of the USA.” If the Structure bars default and more cash is required to stop default, Congress should act. The president cannot difficulty debt on his personal say-so.
Prakash additional notes that insofar because the 14th Modification obligates the President to behave to make sure that money owed are paid, this may require the President to prioritize paying such obligations over making different appropriations.
If Congress fails to boost the debt ceiling, the one motive there can be a default is that if the manager fails to pay the curiosity on the debt because it comes due. But when the manager department believes there’s a constitutional requirement to pay the curiosity, why wouldn’t it even contemplate refusing to take action? To my data there isn’t any legislation that forestalls the manager from prioritizing curiosity funds above all different spending.
The truth is, there’s an argument that having by statute pledged the “religion of the USA Authorities,” Congress implicitly prioritized the fee of the curiosity and principal. If the debt ceiling is not raised, the Treasury ought to pay the curiosity as it’s due and spend lower than Congress appropriated. That will be one of the best resolution within the wake of a mismatch between complete inflows (taxes plus new borrowing) and Congress’s desired spending.
Not solely does the President lack the authority to ignore the debt ceiling, he additionally lacks the constitutional authority to borrow funds with out congressional authorization.