Nearly a dozen left-wing senators — including high-profile members Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and John Fetterman (D-PA) — sent a letter to Biden on Thursday warning that it may be the president’s only option to avoid a default if Republicans don’t agree to a deal.
“Using this authority would allow the United States to continue to pay its bills on-time, without delay, preventing a global economic catastrophe,” they wrote.
The senators cite Section Four of the 14th Amendment, which states 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.”
Biden said last week he would consider invoking the 14th Amendment, noting that leftist Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe “thinks that it would be legitimate,” though the president warned the matter would likely be litigated and “in the meantime, without an extension, it would still end up in the same place.”
While Republicans have highlighted other legal experts who have argued against the president trying to employ the 14th Amendment, even officials within Biden’s own administration have expressed hesitation. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said in recent days that invoking the 14th Amendment is “legally questionable” and could create a “constitutional crisis.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, advised Biden to lean into the tactic anyway, telling Insider the 14 Amendment serves as “an operations manual for how the president should respond to extortion and threats by a faction of Congress.”
Yellen notified Congress in January that the United States had hit the statutory limit of roughly $31.4 trillion and advised that her agency take “extraordinary measures” so the government could continue to pay its bills, but only in the short term. That buffer period could run out as soon as next month, leading officials to warn of dire consequences for the economy.
For a time there had been a standoff between White House and top Democrats in Congress, who pushed for a “clean” debt ceiling raise, and the GOP-led House, which passed a bill that would allow the limit to be lifted by $1.5 trillion in exchange for spending cuts and reforms. The conservative House Freedom Caucus underscored the rift on Thursday by declaring a hardline position, calling for the Democrat-led to pass the House legislation for there to be further talks.
Still, there are signs that an agreement may soon be reached as the White House and congressional leaders engage in talks. The White House touted a “productive and direct meeting” on Tuesday and, on Thursday, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told reporters he sees a “path” to a deal.