As the debt ceiling debate nears the default date – August 2, 2011 – there has been increasing reference to the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. The reason for the mentioning of the 14th Amendment is due to some congressmen’s interpretation of Section 4 of the Amendment.
Section 4 of Amendment 14 refers to ‘the validity of the public debt <which> shall not be questioned.’
Culminating to a near-last ditch effort to avoid a national economic default, there was a cry on the U.S. Senate floor Saturday night for President Barack Obama to invoke the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling if the House and Senate cannot do so by next Tuesday.
The strong request was made by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) when he said:
If the Congress through inaction or action, tries to destroy or alter those obligations, I believe it is incumbent on the chief executive to exercise his authority to make sure the full faith and credit of the United States is not jeopardized. The president should use his authority to do so… The security, the future improvement of the United States, and future generations depend upon the president taking this action, boldly and forthrightly, to preserve the integrity and to make sure that the obligations and the full faith and credit of the United States is not questioned.
Within Harkin’s request, he referenced Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin D. Roosevelt as having used the executive powers via the 14th Amendment.
Though such an action on Obama’s part would require an extremely broad interpretation of the Constitutional Amendment, Harkin is not the only Democrat in Congress who has made the suggestion.
President Barack Obama has stated that he does not interpret the constitution to give him the right to raise the debt ceiling without the Senate and House’s approval. Additionally, Obama’s legal staff has advised him that they do not read the constitution to give him the right either.
For reference, the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution follows:
The 14th Amendment of the United States
Passed by Congress June 13, 1866. Ratified July 9, 1868.
Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.
Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
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.
Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
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Source: ABC, 14thAmendment.us