President Barack Obama sidestepped a question on whether the 14th Amendment would allow the federal government to issue more debt if Congress refuses to raise the country’s legal borrowing limit. Instead, he said he expects to strike a deal with lawmakers in the coming weeks.
“I don’t think we should even get to the constitutional issue,” Mr. Obama said in a town-hall meeting conducted using Twitter.
A handful of politicians, academics and pundits have floated the idea of invoking the Constitution’s 14th Amendment to avoid a U.S. default if Congress fails to raise the limit before the government runs out of borrowing room. The Treasury says the deadline is Aug. 2.
The Reconstruction-era amendment, in part, reads: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”
But a statutory limit has restricted total federal debt since 1917. Congress has raised it repeatedly–10 times since 2001.
Some are questioning whether that statute is constitutional. In April, University of Baltimore law professor Garrett Epps wrote in the Atlantic that Mr. Obama could invoke the amendment to authorize borrowing that does not conform with the debt-limit law. The idea caught fire in some circles and some members of Congress have said the idea should be further explored.
Mr. Obama didn’t rule out such a move if Congress doesn’t act before Aug. 2, the day Treasury has said the U.S. wouldn