Janet Yellen, the US Treasury Secretary, has dismissed the idea of using the 14th Amendment of the Constitution to raise the country’s debt limit as “legally questionable.” Her comments come as the US government is rapidly approaching its borrowing limit and the country’s lawmakers are struggling to reach an agreement on how to raise it.
The 14th Amendment to the Constitution was originally enacted in 1868, and its fourth section includes the statement that “the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law…shall not be questioned.” Some legal experts have suggested that this could be interpreted as giving the president the power to raise the debt limit unilaterally, without the need for Congressional approval.
However, Yellen has dismissed this idea, stating in a recent interview with Bloomberg TV that “the debt limit has to be raised through Congressional action…It’s Congress that authorizes the borrowing. The president can’t just say, ‘I’m going to borrow beyond the debt limit.'”
The US government has been operating under a suspension of the debt limit since August 2021, which has allowed the Treasury Department to continue borrowing to fund government operations. However, this suspension is set to expire on July 31, 2022, and Congress must act before then to raise or suspend the limit.
Republicans in Congress have been opposed to raising the debt limit, arguing that it will encourage more government spending. Democrats, on the other hand, have warned that failing to raise the limit would be disastrous for the country’s economy, potentially leading to default on its debt and damaging the global financial system.
Yellen has urged lawmakers to take swift action to raise the debt limit, stating that “failure to raise the debt limit would produce widespread economic catastrophe,” and that the US government could run out of cash to pay its bills as soon as October 2022 if the limit is not raised. She has also emphasized that the debt limit reflects a commitment to pay for past government spending and that defaulting on the country’s debt would be “unthinkable.”
It remains to be seen how Congress will ultimately address the debt limit issue, but Yellen’s comments suggest that the Biden administration is not considering the use of the 14th Amendment as a potential solution. Instead, the administration is likely to continue urging lawmakers to reach a bipartisan agreement to raise the limit before the country faces a potentially catastrophic economic crisis.