Katrina vanden Heuvel [“Ending the debt showdown,” op-ed, July 6] claimed that President Obama has the independent constitutional authority under Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling. Ms. vanden Heuvel quoted the amendment in support of the proposition that “the public debt of the United States . . . shall not be questioned,” omitting by the ellipsis three important words that destroyed her argument. The fuller quotation is “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law . . . shall not be questioned.” If the United States takes on a debt not “authorized by law,” such as by issuing debt instruments above the congressionally authorized debt ceiling, the debt is not valid.
Indeed, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution clearly gives Congress, not the president, the power “to borrow money on the credit of the United States,” and courts declare commitments of government officers made in excess of their statutory authority void all the time.
As much as I, as a Democrat with an inkling about finance, would like to end-run the House of Representatives on the debt ceiling, Ms. vanden Heuvel’s opinion is a legal argument to which I suspect very few attorneys — let alone the conservative majority of the Supreme Court — would subscribe.
Brian T. Edmunds, Rockville