In terms of the debt limit, what the 14th Amendment means


The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution On July 9, 1868, it was ratified as one of the amendments after the Civil War. It addresses several important aspects of citizenship, equal protection under the law and due process.

The Amendment consists of four main clauses:

Citizenship Clause: This clause states that anyone born or naturalized in the United States is a citizen of the country and the state they reside in. It overturned the Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), which denied African Americans citizenship.

Due Process Clause: The Amendment’s Due Process Clause prohibits states from depriving them of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. This means the government must follow fair procedures and regulations while taking actions that may affect an individual’s fundamental rights.

Equal Protection Clause: The Equal Protection Clause mandates that states must afford equal protection of the laws to all individuals within their jurisdiction. It prohibits discrimination by the government based on race, ethnicity, gender, or other protected characteristics.

Enforcement Clause: The 14th Amendment’s final provision grants Congress the authority to uphold its provisions by passing relevant laws. It allows Congress to pass laws to enforce the rights and protections granted by the Amendment.

The 14th Amendment has played an essential role in forming American constitutional law and is the basis of many landmark Supreme Court decisions. It is invoked to protect individuals against discrimination in civil rights, voting rights, education and many other areas and to ensure equal treatment under the law.

President Joe Biden made waves on Tuesday when he admitted he was considering using the 14th Amendment to end the debt moratorium — before saying he feared it would get bogged down in court.

On Wednesday, a politically active constitutional scholar who has warmed to Biden on the idea called the president’s concerns misplaced.

“I don’t think there’s a case to be afraid of,” said Harvard professor Lawrence Tribe, adding that he “hopes” Biden realizes that the court challenge is not a concern.

The Tribe’s response to Biden represents his latest attempt to try and persuade the president to use novel legal arguments through the increasingly thorny debt ceiling standoff. Biden became aware of the Tribe’s efforts to push for the 14th Amendment after reading a New York Times op-ed on May 7. In the op-ed, he suggested that the president prioritize enforcing other laws passed by Congress over the debt ceiling.

President Biden was asked Tuesday if he would focus on the 14th Amendment to bypass the debt limit. He hinted that he was considering it, but for the future, not now.

Certain scholars say the debt limit conflicts with Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, and this section specifies that it cannot challenge the U.S. government’s public debt.

Why the Fourteenth Amendment?

Some constitutional experts believe that the debt limit, which establishes the maximum amount of debt the United States can borrow, goes against the 14th Amendment. Section 4 of this Amendment clearly declares that the legality of the United States public debt, which is authorized by law, cannot be challenged. Additionally, any issues regarding payments for pensions and grants for services rendered during the suppression of the Mutiny cannot be disputed.

Instead of seeking congressional approval to raise the debt ceiling, the Biden administration could challenge the validity of the debt ceiling by having the Treasury continue issuing new debt to meet its fiscal obligations.

According to Biden, Lawrence Tribe, a constitutional law expert and Harvard Law School emeritus, now supports the 14th Amendment theory. This theory was previously dismissed by President Barack Obama in 2011 when he was faced with the risk of default.

In a recent New York Times op-ed, Tribe emphasized that the real question is not whether the president can disregard the federal debt ceiling statute. According to The Tribe, the question is whether Congress can use a dollar limit to force the president and his administration to follow their commands, even after creating the debts by passing spending bills. The answer, according to The Tribe, is no.

McConnell cautions Biden against ‘acting unconstitutionally’ without Congress.

Senate Majority Leader McConnell cautioned Biden against pursuing the 14th Amendment strategy in Wednesday comments on the Senate floor.

McConnell stated that President Biden cannot afford to refuse compromises when dealing with a divided government. He also emphasized that acting against the Constitution without the approval of Congress is not a viable option.

A meeting was held in the Oval Office with Biden, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries and McConnell to discuss debt-ceiling talks. Unfortunately, the meeting was unsuccessful in narrowing the differences between the parties involved.

The U.S. has until June 1 to avoid a potential default, as the government may need more funds to cover its bills. There is a disagreement between Republicans and Democrats regarding the debt ceiling. Republicans want to connect spending cuts to raise the debt ceiling, while Biden and Democrats want to raise it without any conditions.

During an interview, Tribe stated that the House Republicans, who plan to contest the president’s use of the 14th Amendment, cannot sue the president for violating the Constitution. He expected the Supreme Court to dismiss such cases.

“Even bending their standing doctrines, I don’t know how they or anyone could stand to sue the president and the treasury secretary for spending the money that Congress has said it would,” Tribe asked, “What specific expenses would the court prohibit them from making?”

On Tuesday, Biden expressed his respect for Tribe and acknowledged that he had been mentoring him for a while. The Tribe declined to say whether it has been talking to the White House about the 14th Amendment idea.

The basis of the Tribe’s argument is that Congress cannot enact laws requiring the executive to spend money and create debt and then demand a separate dollar limit for that spending.

As the country approaches default, utilizing the 14th Amendment’s provision that cannot question, the nation’s debt has become more popular for ensuring payments on spending approved by Congress. Once the current standoff concludes, it may escalate further. The White House has expressed Biden’s earnestness in investigating ways to avoid another cycle of financial loss for the country.

“Debt limits are not limited to debt, and it has no positive function and is just a recipe for periodic crisis,” Tribe said.

Democrats on Capitol Hill have warmed to the idea but are sceptical of embracing the escape hatch due to similar concerns about a particular court challenge.

“I think we should check it out,” said Democratic Whip Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Unfortunately, it’s not practical for us to initiate a legal dispute at the eleventh hour, with June 1 as the deadline.

About the author

Marta Lopez

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