As concerns about the debt ceiling heat up, a group of Democratic senators is planning to send Joe Biden a letter requesting he use his authority under the 14th amendment of the constitution to continue paying the US government’s bills, even if the debt ceiling is not raised.
May 17, 2023
Chris Stein and staff
Democratic senators including Tina Smith, Elizabeth Warren, Ed Markey and Bernie Sanders, an independent, argued that Republicans are not negotiating “in good faith”. They called into question the GOP’s attempt to apply work requirements to programs like Medicaid and SNAP, which provide healthcare and food vouchers for low income family.
“It is unfortunate that Republicans in the House of Representatives and Senate are not acting in good faith. Instead, Republicans have made it clear that they are prepared to hold our entire economy hostage unless you accede to their demands to reduce the deficit on the backs of working families. That is simply unacceptable,” reads the letter obtained by the Guardian.
The letter has been circulated amongst lawmakers at a time when Biden has reportedly signaled some support to compromise on work requirements and rules for federal programs. But Democrats are increasingly concerned about what those negotiations could look like and are looking to the 14th amendment, a US civil war-era addition to the constitution, which states that the validity of public debt “shall not be questioned’”. This could potentially allow Biden to override Congress on the grounds that their failure to raise the ceiling is unconstitutional.
But Biden previously expressed some doubt on that strategy. “I have been considering the 14th amendment,” Biden said last week. “And a man I have enormous respect for, Larry Tribe, who advised me for a long time, thinks that it would be legitimate. But the problem is it would have to be litigated.”
Even so, those behind the letter are up against the Republican party, which has refused to make concessions such as raising taxes on the very wealthy.
“We write to urgently request that you prepare to exercise your authority under the 14th amendment of the constitution, which clearly states: ‘the validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.’ Using this authority would allow the United States to continue to pay its bills on-time, without delay, preventing a global economic catastrophe.”
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