White House rules out Constitution debt option

WASHINGTON Tue Jul 26, 2011 3:55pm EDT

U.S. President Barack Obama participates in a town hall meeting on U.S. debt reduction talks at the University of Maryland in College Park near Washington, July 22, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed

U.S. President Barack Obama participates in a town hall meeting on U.S. debt reduction talks at the University of Maryland in College Park near Washington, July 22, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Reed

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama will not use a clause in the Constitution to bypass Congress and raise the federal government's debt limit on his own, the White House said Tuesday.

"It's not available," White House press secretary Jay Carney said in the administration's firmest dismissal of the 14th Amendment as a way to avoid a default if Congress fails to lift the $14.3 trillion debt limit by an August 2 deadline.

"The Constitution makes clear that Congress has the authority, not the president, to borrow money and only Congress can increase the statutory debt ceiling. That is just a reality."

The 14th Amendment stipulates the U.S. public debt "shall not be questioned" -- which some legal scholars argue would allow Obama, a Democrat, to sidestep lawmakers and raise the borrowing limit on his own.

The White House has persistently poured cold water on the idea that a provision in the Constitution stemming from the Civil War in the 1860s to make sure Union debts were honored and Confederate obligations were not could be a way around the debt impasse.

But some influential Democrats have continued to see it as a legitimate strategy to sidestep a Congress deadlocked over the debt limit because of fiscally conservative Tea Party Republicans who will not compromise on any tax increases.

Former President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, has said that if it came to averting a U.S. default, he would invoke the 14th Amendment, raise the debt ceiling and "force the courts to stop me."

Obama played down this notion Friday, when he said White House lawyers were "not persuaded that that is a winning argument." But his remarks did signal the 14th Amendment route was at least being reviewed by his administration.

That impression remained intact after comments by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner Sunday that bypassing Congress was "not a workable option," which also appeared to stop short of a flat-out rejection.

Tuesday, Carney went out of his way to rule it out.

"You can have an esoteric discussion about constitutional law and what could not or should not be," he said. "But we don't have the luxury or the time. The law is as it is. That is how we view it and that is why we have to reach a compromise."

(Additional reporting by Laura MacInnis and Caren Bohan; Editing by John O'Callaghan)

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Comments (3)
DrJJJJ wrote:
Over $10 Trillion in deficits is projected for the next 10 years and here’s the last 10:

2011 $1,500 Billion
2010 $1,300 Billion
2009 $1,400 Billion
2008 $240 Billion
2007 $161 Billion
2006 $248 Billion
2005 $319 Billion
2004 $412 Billion
2003 $374 Billion
2002 $159 Billion

Note: During 02-08 we had 911, 2 wars, Katrina, etc! What’s wrong with this picture-anyone? Yes, Clinton’s free home program, record gov expansion and Bush2 issues did have a big effect on Obamas deficits-I’ll give him that! Big government is the problem, not the answer folks! Vote for anyone that’s likely to downsize government! Time for change!

Jul 26, 2011 4:09pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
KyuuAL wrote:
Actually, I’d rather downsize Wall Street and the banks first. Then the government.

Jul 26, 2011 4:31pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Velmaa1 wrote:
While there may be some necessary regulation reforms needed, why would anyone want Government totally downsized. There are those who want to do away with all oversight and all regulations. We then have more airplance crashing due to lack of oversight, food that may or may not be clean and without poisonous insecticides. We would then have lower quality on everything because there would be the greedy bypassing any regs so they can save money. It happened when Reagan first did away with the unions for the airlines and suddenly we had all kinds of accidents which had not happened before.

Jul 26, 2011 5:34pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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