Sen. Bernie Sanders is urging President Biden to resist the temptation to negotiate with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy over raising the debt limit. Biden and Biden administration officials have recently met with the Speaker, despite previously saying that the debt limit was off the table.
Sanders is alarmed by this development, as McCarthy has continued to play chicken with what would be America’s first-ever default. Sanders and a group of ten other Senators think Biden shouldn’t play the game.
The letter reminds Biden — and the nation — that this situation should never have come to pass — that “the debt limit has been raised nearly 80 times” in the past 63 years, including “18 times under President Ronald Reagan,” a Republican.
Today, 10 of my Senate colleagues and I sent a letter to President Biden urging him not to cave in to extreme Republican demands that will cause irreparable harm to the American people. Instead, he should prepare to use the 14th Amendment to avoid a catastrophic debt default. pic.twitter.com/fjFw7DtRU9— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 18, 2023
You don’t fight the hostage taker, is the point. Instead, you go in and rescue the hostages. In this case, McCarthy and House MAGA Republicans are holding the national debt hostage, and Sanders and company want Biden to do an end-around to rescue the debt from its captors.
The 14th amendment provides an avenue for such a rescue, and Sanders and others say the President should use it. In the letter, which calls the Republican strategy “simply unacceptable,” they implore Biden to “exercise your authority under the 14th amendment of the Constitution.”
It’s clearly a hostage situation as Democrats frame it — and, in fact, McCarthy doesn’t disagree. The Speaker is at liberty to pass a “clean” debt ceiling bill, which would do nothing other than raise the debt limit so the U.S. can avoid default. But he has calculated his situation and decided to press the advantage he believes he has as the holder of debt limit keys.
[McCarthy’s offer is that he will OK the debt limit raise if Biden gives in to the budgetary demands set forth in McCarthy’s “Limit, Save, Grow” bill, which Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse called an “oily” bill ghost-written by the fossil fuel industry.]
Sanders and company insist McCarthy’s perceived advantage can be gainsaid, and that the 14th amendment provides a way for Biden to avoid McCarthy’s trap — and pull off the rescue. The solution? The 14th amendment says the “validity of the public debt of the United States shall not be questioned.”
A default puts the debt deeply into question. That’s illegal and unconstitutional, says the idea.
Moreover, the requirement that the President “faithfully execute the laws that Congress passes” would be impossible to fulfill if the debt limit is not raised, says Whitehouse. See below.
Biden has long said — too long, some critics say — that he will not negotiate over the debt limit. McCarthy is welcome to propose any number of budget considerations, Biden said, but the debt (money already spent) and budget (money to be spent) are unrelated.
Even Donald Trump has agreed that McCarthy’s present tactic should “never” be done.
President Trump on the debt ceiling: "I said, I remember, to Sen. Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, 'Would anyone ever use that to negotiate with?' They said 'absolutely not.' That's a sacred element of our country. They can't use the debt ceiling to negotiate." pic.twitter.com/WvI6j4nqMQ— The Hill (@thehill) July 19, 2019