Political Education

Nancy Pelosi and the 14th Amendment option

I know that, when reading The Huffington Post, you can sometimes come across ridiculous stories.  Then I found this one, about the 14th Amendment Option: Nancy Pelosi Urges Obama to ‘Just Go Do It’ (Video)  In this video, Pelosi states that the Congress doesn’t have the right to not pay its already-incurred debts and that, under the 14th amendment, President Obama should just raise the debt ceiling without the permission of Congress.  Now, let’s look at this argument: the 14th Amendment states, in Section 4,

“..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. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.”

In plain English, this means that any current public debt the US has shall be paid and not questioned.  But that isn’t what raising the debt ceiling is about–it isn’t about paying old debt, it’s about creating new debt and paying off old debt.  Neither party disagrees that is a bad thing.  In a recession, however, that is a different argument.  I am just amused that Nancy Pelosi is trying to turn the debt ceiling into a constitutional issue when it isn’t.  The White House stated in December that the “administration does not believe that the 14th Amendment gives the President the power to ignore the debt ceiling — period,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. Congress has to pay its debts, but it doesn’t have to create new ones.  I hope Pelosi and Congress realize this fact.

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