Treasury Nixes 14th Amendment Debt Solution

In a letter to the editor of The New York Times (NYSE:NYT), general counsel of the U.S. Department of the Treasury refuted speculation in a recent op-ed piece that a clause in the fourteenth amendment to the Constitution could be used to give the President powers to circumvent Congress in raising the limit on the debt ceiling. Here’s the full letter:

“To the Editor:

Contrary to Professor Laurence Tribe’s assertion (Op-Ed, July 8), Secretary Geithner has never argued that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows the President to disregard the statutory debt limit. As Professor Tribe notes, the Constitution explicitly places the borrowing authority with Congress, not the President.

The Secretary has cited the 14th Amendment’s command that “[t]he validity of the public debt of the United States… shall not be questioned” in support of his strong conviction that Congress has an obligation to ensure we are able to honor the obligations of the United States. Like every previous Secretary of the Treasury who has confronted the question, Secretary Geithner has always viewed the debt limit as a binding legal constraint that can only be raised by Congress

Sincerely,

George W. Madison

General Counsel”

The 14th amendment clause had sparked a flurry of public hope that the Pres. could forgo stalling debt ceiling negotiations with Congressional Leaders and authorize a hike of the current $14.5 trillion limit on the national debt. The Treasury’s response, states bluntly that no such option will be available to Pres. Obama, placing more pressure on the country’s leading man to orchestrate a deal with Congress to stave off a potential default by the August 2nd deadline.

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