A trio of House Democratic leaders is calling on President Obama to move unilaterally to raise the country’s debt ceiling next week if Congress passes anything less than a long-term extension of the federal borrowing limit.
House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn (S.C.), Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) and Caucus Vice-Chairman Xavier Becerra (Calif.) said after a closed-door caucus meeting Wednesday that they are calling on Obama both to veto a short-term deal and sign an executive order invoking the Constitution’s 14th Amendment to avert default on Aug. 2.
“I would say to the President that if that’s what lands on his desk – a short term lifting of the debt ceiling -- he should put it on his desk next to an executive order that he will have drawn up,” Clyburn told reporters at the Capitol. “And with the same pen that he vetoes that short term debt ceiling extension, he should sign an executive order invoking the Fourteenth Amendment.”
The notion of invoking the 14th Amendment in order to raise the debt ceiling has gained traction among some Democrats, including former President Bill Clinton, as a means of averting default in case Congress does not reach a debt-limit agreement by Aug. 2, when the Treasury Department says the U.S. faces default.
But the legality of such a move has been questioned. Clyburn said Wednesday that he was “convinced that whatever discussions about the legality of that can continue” but that such an action by Obama was needed in order to “bring calm to the American people” as well as stability to global financial markets. U.S. stocks fell sharply Wednesday, as concern grew over the stalemate in Washington.
In addition to the three Democratic leaders, several rank-and-file Democrats also came out in favor of the 14th-Amendment approach.
Democratic Reps. Eliot Engel (N.Y.), Jerry Nadler (N.Y.), John Garamendi (Calif.) and Del. Donna Christensen (Virgin Islands) and several other Democrats plan to hold a news conference at 1 p.m. Thursday urging Obama to pursue such an approach.The Democrats planned to hold their event at near the Washington Monument -- at the corner of 14th Streets and Constitution Ave. in Northwest Washington.
The White House has repeatedly dismissed the 14th Amendment argument, and White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Wednesday reiterated Obama’s opposition to such a move.
“Our position hasn’t changed,” Carney told reporters at the daily briefing. “There are no off-ramps. There’s no way around this. There’s no escape. And, you know, having an esoteric constitutional argument won’t resolve the fact that our borrowing authority is due to expire on Aug. 2.”
He added that “only Congress has the legal authority to extend that borrowing authority.”
“That’s our position,” Carney said. “And the president stood here and told you; we consulted to see what this was about, but it’s just -- you know, it is not an option.”