Invoking the 14th Amendment to lift the borrowing cap on the US debt ceiling as a way to work around slow-moving negotiations is not an option, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo told CNN Friday, the administration’s most definitive response yet to an unlikely option demanded by some progressives.
“The question was whether the United States would use the 14th Amendment and I think the president and (Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen) have been very clear that that will not solve our problems now. So, yes, that is a no,” Adeyemo said when asked about the prospect by CNN’s Poppy Harlow on “CNN This Morning.”
Some progressives have called for President Joe Biden to invoke the amendment – which says, in part, that the “The validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned” – but such an action would risk a constitutional crisis and swift legal action. The president has previously said he believes the federal government has the “authority” to do so but that he doesn’t consider invoking the 14th Amendment as an imminent solution.
The solution ultimately rests with Congress to raise the debt limit, Adeyemo said.
“Congress has ability to do that, and the president is calling on them to act on that as quickly as possible,” he said Friday.
There are signs that negotiations over raising the nation’s debt limit are gaining momentum, but major differences remain and it’s unclear how quickly an agreement could come together. Time is running short as the risk of a first-ever default grows, with officials pointing to June 1 as the earliest day on which the Treasury Department would be unable to pay all of its bill in full and on time.
Republicans have demanded spending cuts and tightening work requirements for social safety net programs, which Democrats have largely balked at.
While the 14th Amendment is considered a theoretical workaround, previous administrations have deemed such a move as unworkable.
Last week, the US Chamber of Commerce strongly pushed back against efforts from Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and other progressives to urge the White House to use the 14th Amendment to avoid a disastrous default.
“It is the Chamber’s view that attempting to invoke so-called ‘powers’ under the 14th Amendment would be as economically calamitous as a default by a failure to lift the debt limit in a timely manner,” Neil Bradley, the Chamber’s chief policy officer and a former senior aide to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, wrote in the letter.
Yellen has also poured cold water on the idea of invoking the 14th Amendment, saying, “there is no way to protect our financial system and our economy other than Congress doing its job and raising the debt ceiling.”