Senate Democrats are asking Biden to stop negotiating with Republicans on a debt-ceiling solution and take a route that might get rid of the problem forever

Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.Jose Luis Magana/AP Images
  • Senate Democrats want Joe Biden to pursue using the 14th Amendment to solve the debt-ceiling crisis.

  • Going that route, Biden would bypass Congress and declare the debt ceiling unconstitutional.

  • Biden has expressed hesitancy with attempting that option given the prospect of litigation.

Pressure is building on President Joe Biden to try to bypass Congress and solve the debt-ceiling crisis on his own using the Constitution.

On Wednesday, The Washington Post first reported that five Democratic senators had spearheaded an effort to urge Biden to invoke a clause in the 14th Amendment as a way of addressing the debt ceiling. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned House Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Monday that the US could default as soon as early June if Congress didn't raise the debt ceiling by then, but lawmakers have yet to reach an agreement on staving off a financially devastating and unprecedented default.

That's why Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Tina Smith, Ed Markey, and Jeff Merkley are circulating a letter, shared with Insider, to Biden urging him to invoke a clause in the 14th Amendment that would declare the debt ceiling unconstitutional, possibly getting rid of the debate forever — and the congressional drama that comes with it.

"It is unfortunate that Republicans in the House of Representatives and Senate are not acting in good faith. Instead, Republicans have made it clear that they are prepared to hold our entire economy hostage unless you accede to their demands to reduce the deficit on the backs of working families," the lawmakers wrote. "That is simply unacceptable."

Section 4 of the 14th Amendment says "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." And as the US inches closer and closer to a default, it's a route a growing number of Democrats appear to be on board with.

"The choice we face is clear. We cannot reach a budget agreement that increases the suffering of millions of Americans who are already living in desperation," the lawmakers wrote, adding that "using this authority would allow the United States to continue to pay its bills on-time, without delay, preventing a global economic catastrophe."

Many legal experts have argued that language indicates that a default would be unconstitutional, meaning the president would be required to ignore the debt ceiling and continue borrowing as normal to pay for the nation's financial obligations. That would ensure Congress would never have to squabble over the issue again.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, for example, told Insider in a Wednesday interview that the 14th Amendment "provides the whole structure for resolving the conflict."

"The Constitution clearly disfavors an economic default and the resulting collapse in the full faith and credit of the United States," he said.

And Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse wrote on Twitter on Wednesday that "disabling the hand grenade McCarthy is wielding would relieve markets forever that this dangerous brinksmanship will never happen again," voicing support for the 14th Amendment.

Still, some Republican lawmakers, White House officials, and even Biden himself have expressed concerns with that route. McCarthy said earlier this month that he opposed using the 14th Amendment to address the debt ceiling, and Biden told reporters last week that even though he had been "considering" invoking that clause, "the problem is it would have to be litigated."

He said that he didn't think the 14th Amendment "solves our problem now," continuing: "I think that only solves your problem once the court has ruled that it does apply for future endeavors."

Not all Democrats are on board, either. Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy told NBC News that when it came to using the 14th Amendment: "I don't want to give Joe Biden advice, but I think we should do our job. I think that's a precedent to just absolve Congress from being adults."

Following a meeting Biden hosted with top lawmakers on Tuesday to discuss the debt ceiling — in which little progress was made — the administration plans to continue talks this week to reach a deal as soon as possible. But with a compromise out of reach so far, the 14th Amendment might be a key way to prevent a default in a matter of weeks.

May 18, 2023: This story was updated to clarify the status of the debt-ceiling debate. The two sides so far haven't reached a compromise.

Read the original article on Business Insider