In an effort to avoid a potential debt ceiling crisis, President Joe Biden and White House officials are looking into alternative ways to raise the nation’s borrowing limitations.
The debt ceiling, or debt limit, is a cap on the total amount of money that the federal government is authorized to borrow via the U.S. Treasury. Biden is considering challenging the limit by invoking the 14th Amendment — something many Republicans are arguing against.
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Here’s what to know about the 14th Amendment and what lawmakers are saying.
What is the 14th Amendment?
The amendment, ratified during the Civil War in 1868, is known for extending citizenship to former slaves. It states that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.”
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But it also includes a clause referring to the debt ceiling in Section 4, which states that 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.”
In theory, the 14th Amendment could challenge the legality of the debt limit and have the Treasury continue to issue new debt to fulfill the nation’s financial obligations.
So, why is Congress debating the debt ceiling?
In January, the U.S. reached a debt limit of $31.381 trillion. If the debt is not raised by a June 1 deadline, the nation will default on its debt and have negative economic implications.
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In addition, the House Republican majority won’t raise the debt ceiling without a compromise from Biden and Democrats on spending cuts. Senate Majority Leader McConnell argues that a Biden move to invoke the 14th Amendment would be unconstitutional. Other political experts say it violates the clause stated in section 4 of the Constitution.
In a January letter from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to House leaders, she advised Congressional leaders to “start taking certain extraordinary measures to prevent the U.S from defaulting on its obligations.”
What are Biden’s next steps?
Biden’s position is to raise the debt without any conditions and he could look into pursuing an extension to pay the nation’s bills.
However, talks have hit an impasse after Biden met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Chuck Schumer, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries and McConnell on Tuesday.
Contact local reporter Cameron Goodnight at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling or texting 302-324-2208. Follow him on Twitter at @CamGoodnight.