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No, the President Can’t Violate the Debt Ceiling

From The Heritage Foundation:

For some partisans—especially those who believe in the “living Constitution”—the Constitution sanctions all they favor and forbids all they oppose.  So it is with the debate over the debt limit.

All of a sudden, politicians who have never cared much for constitutional fidelity are citing a little-known section of the Fourteenth Amendment as grounds for President Obama to evade the congressionally-imposed debt ceiling.  Their goal is to punt on spending reductions that would be part of any debt-ceiling deal and are essential to putting the budget in order.

No surprise, their legal arguments are as fast and loose as their irresponsible spending plans.

The Fourteenth Amendment prohibits legislation that repudiates the Nation’s debt. Section four states: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law . . . shall not be questioned.”  The Supreme Court held that this means “the government is not at liberty to alter or repudiate its obligations.”

But it does not follow that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional.  The Fourteenth Amendment does not specify any particular manner by the obligation to honor the Nation’s debt may be met.  Congress may, for example, raise taxes, cut spending, redirect appropriated funds, or reduce other payments that are not necessary to satisfy “public debt.”  There is no constitutional requirement that it borrow.

Read the rest at The Heritage Foundation.


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