Some Democratic senators are pitching the idea that the debt ceiling itself is unconstitutional, that it violates the 14th Amendment, and that if a deal on raising the debt limit is not reached by Aug. 2, President Barack Obama could keep spending, meet deficit obligations, and ignore howls of protest from GOPers in Congress. … It’s a bad idea that would actually be a gift to opposition Republicans, backfire badly on the White House, and reinforce the stereotype of Democrats as tax-and-spenders.
Some of the Democrats in the Senate musing over the idea are Chris Coons, of Delaware, Patty Murray, of Washington, and most signifanctly, Chuck Schumer, of New York. They point to these words in the amendment: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law … shall not be questioned.” Coons, talking to the Huffington Post, candidly wonders if Congress can even legally “default.” (Read)
If we could afford it, it would be an interesting legal question as to whether meeting past debt or future spending is the lawful priority of Congress, but this would be a public relations disaster for Democrats. The most obvious rebuttal — and one that would resonate with the public – is that Democrats themselves have voted, albeit in a secure minority, against raising the debt. Such a ”conversion” toward constitutional appropriateness would be seen as more cynicism.
Second, this is a really bad time to try to find a loophole to avoid responsibility for federal debt spending that is truly astounding, $14-plus trillion and moving quickly upward. Distrust of politics, and pols, is at perhaps its highest ever. Any attempt to avoid debt responsibilities with a “14th Amendment explanation” would only add to the distrust.