Sunday Late Night: “XIV/4 or Bust!”
Democrats in both Houses, and a former president, say it’s so: “XIV/4 or Bust!” To prevent catastrophic cuts to current spending, a double-dip Obama recession, spectacular losses to America’s wealth, a huge spike in unemployment, a massive contraction of the US economy, to say nothing of the creation of a SuperCongress that overrides constitutional procedures and rules — the president must use a clear and long-available constitutional provision. Section 4 of the XIVth Amendment begins:
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.
There is now a deal, and Speaker Boehner needs Democratic votes to pass it because of his unruly and recalcitrant TeaParty membership, members of the Progressive Caucus must stop the deal. By stopping the deal at the last minute, the House Progressive Caucus forces President Obama to use his constitutional authority to ignore an illegal law that questions America’s public debt: the debt ceiling.
The consequences — passing this planetarily catastrophic deal that submits the presidency to the will of the TeaParty, discards democracy, and overthrows the security of the modern social state — are too grave to act any other way.
Leaders of the Progressive Caucus won’t back the deal and want the President to use the constitutional option.
Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), co-head of the House Progressive Caucus:
Representative Raul Grijalva, who heads a group of liberal Democrats in the House of Representatives, said on Sunday that he would not back an emerging debt-ceiling deal crafted by Republican and Democratic leaders.
“This deal trades peoples’ livelihoods for the votes of a few unappeasable right-wing radicals, and I will not support it,” Grijalva said in a statement. Grijalva heads the 74-member Congressional Progressive Caucus.
Co-head of the Progressive Caucus Keith Ellison (D-MN) sees only two ways forward, either a clean deal or the president raising the debt ceiling by using the “constitutional option:”
The other thing, the 14th Amendment, I believe, authorizes the president to raise the debt ceiling, of course, I think he’ll draw some legal challenges, but so be it. If they — I think at the end of the day we swear an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, the 14th Amendment says the debt ceiling should not be questioned. I think the president has authority to raise it and move forward that way. I prefer to have the legislative body to operate and function, but if push comes to shove, I think that he needs to just invoke that Constitutional option.
The Congressional Black Caucus wants President Obama to exercise his constitutional duty to avoid default:
In a letter to the president, the lawmakers argue that he has “both the authority and a moral obligation” to invoke the Constitution’s 14th Amendment “to avoid an economic catastrophe of historic proportions.”
“We must not allow a political deadlock to cause the United States to default for the first time in our history,” the CBC members wrote. “Now that Congress has borrowed money and incurred debt, we cannot – as a nation and under our Constitution – walk away.”
Additionally, Caucus Chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) called tonight’s deal as it was emerging “a sugar-coated Satan sandwich” and a “shady bill.”
Leaders of the Democratic Party want the president to use XIV/4.
Bill Clinton, the immediately preceding Democratic president and one who served two full terms despite impeachment:
“I think the Constitution is clear and I think this idea that the Congress gets to vote twice on whether to pay for [expenditures] it has appropriated is crazy,” Clinton said.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD)
“It’s arguably his power to do so,” Hoyer told CNBC’s sister network MSNBC in an interview late on Thursday night.
“Very frankly, if it came down to his looking default in the eye on Tuesday or taking this action, as President Clinton said, better to take the action and find out later that perhaps he went beyond his authority but at least protect the credibility of the United States of America,” he said.
House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (D-SC):
“If the president were to get a bill that he finds objectionable—something that extends this thing for three days or 30 days or even six months—I do believe we’ll be postponing the inevitable, that we will find ourselves right back in this quagmire down the road,” Clyburn said Wednesday on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports. “So I believe that if he were to get a bill like that, he ought to sit right alongside the veto message an executive order. And he should take the pen that he uses to veto that legislation to sign an executive order doing this under the 14th Amendment.”
UPDATE: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is not keeping silent. She may have freed her caucus from being whipped; does this mean it’s all on Boehner to get votes for this deal? And does that mean Boehner has the votes he needs?
“We all may not be able to support it,” she said. “And maybe none of us will be able to support it.”
Another Democratic leader, this one in the Senate, also thinks the XIVth amendment should play a role:
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said that the constitutional solution puts the question in its proper context — that the debate is over paying past debts, not over future spending.
“The way everybody talks about this is that we need to raise the debt ceiling. What we’re really saying is, ‘We have to pay our bills,'” Murray said. The 14th Amendment approach is “fascinating,” she added.
Other Democratic Senators want the President Obama to exercise his constitutional duty:
Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA):
“If the Congress through inaction, through inaction or action, tries to destroy or alter those obligations I believe it is incumbent on the chief executive to exercise his authority to make sure the full faith and credit of the United States is not jeopardized,” Iowa’s Tom Harkin said. “The president should use his authority to do so.”
Barbara Boxer (D-CA):
“We have to pledge allegiance to the flag, not to Grover Norquist. We have to do what is right for the country. And I pray and I hope that we do. And I will say this, if we fail this, I hope the president will invoke the 14th amendment,” Senator Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. said later.