Political Animal


July 22, 2011 1:25 PM Obama weighs in on ‘constitutional option’

By Steve Benen

President Obama hosted a town-hall event in College Park, Maryland, this morning, and much of the discussion naturally turned to the debt-ceiling fiasco unfolding on Capitol Hill. Of particular interest, though, was an exchange about the so-called “Constitutional Option.”

Mr. Obama for the first time addressed — and ruled out — the idea that the Constitution empowers a president to increase the debt limit to prevent default and, as he put it, “basically ignore” the federal law requiring that the debt ceiling be set by statute. The argument of “the constitutional option,” which President Bill Clinton — like Mr. Obama a former constitutional law instructor — endorsed in an interview earlier this week, is based on the Fourteenth Amendment’s provision that the validity of the United States debt “shall not be questioned.”

“I have talked to my lawyers,” Mr. Obama said, and “they are not persuaded that that is a winning argument.”

This wasn’t quite the “first time” he addressed the question. It actually came up briefly a couple of weeks ago, during the White House Twitter Town Hall, and Obama said at the time, “I don’t think we should even get to the constitutional issue. Congress has a responsibility to make sure we pay our bills.”

Taken together, it certainly doesn’t sound as if this is the approach the president intends to pursue.

That said, I’m probably reading too much into the text, but I can’t help but note that Obama hasn’t categorically ruled out the constitutional option. He’s said he doesn’t want to rely on this tactic, and he said this morning that the lawyers aren’t “persuaded” this is legitimate, but notice that the president hasn’t gotten around to saying, “No, I reject this approach.”

Is this evidence of Obama leaving himself just a little wiggle room, in case push comes to shove? It’s hard to say with any certainty, but it’s one additional angle to keep an eye on.

Of course, there’s no telling how markets or the credit-rating agencies would respond to such a move, and there’s already been some chattering from far-right Republicans that they’d consider impeachment if Obama tried the move.

But I’m wondering what happens on, say, Aug. 1, when President Obama is sitting in the Oval Office, and his team presents him with a narrow set of options. One is an unpredictable economic crisis, which would begin the next day. The other is an unpredictable political crisis, which would prevent the economic catastrophe.

Would Obama simply rule out the latter? I hope we won’t have to find out, but his public comments on the matter suggest he hasn’t entirely closed the door on the possibility.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


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  • c u n d gulag on July 22, 2011 1:34 PM:

    It's the day befoe the deadline.

    The deadheads and deadbeat Teadiots are still preventing a deal.

    The President swoops down, like some kind of political Superman, uses the 14th Amendment, and saves this nation from the first default in history, and there's fear that the Republicans would try to impeach him?

    I say go ahead.

    You don't tread on Superman's cape,
    You don't spit into the wind,
    You also don't go and try to impeach him.

    And if you do, I think that will really piss the non Teatarded in this nation.

  • Pillsy on July 22, 2011 1:36 PM:

    I don't think the market is necessarily going to be eager to snap up large amounts of debt that creates a Constitutional crisis by its very existence. I think people are really underestimatig the economic risks of Obama ignoring the debt ceiling on 14th Amendment grounds.

  • Anon on July 22, 2011 1:39 PM:

    I love that he protects and defends Bush's executive overreaches but suddenly gets cold feet when there's a pressing case to be made for this approach.

    Bush also did it in the most back door manner possible: toss due process and any concept of oversight out the door, stall and stymie investigations.

    Obama could do this in at least a more transparent fashion: give a prime time speech, lay out all the attempts he's made to find common ground, explain that a sizeable chunk of the House is willing to take the global economy off the cliff, and then state the reason he is invoking the 14th. I don't like it very much but between this and the Grand Surrender he's weighing I don't see much choice.

  • SYSPROG on July 22, 2011 1:39 PM:

    'some chattering from far-right Republicans that they’d consider impeachment if Obama tried the move.' Oh JHC! They consider impeachment because he's BLACK! I am sick and tired of these moronic two-year olds. They are trying to bring down the country. It didn't work in the first 8 years and by God, we are not going to allow it now. I say it's time for the 'American people' to rise up and show that 300 million are more powerful than 535 that think they can do anything!!!

  • Pepe on July 22, 2011 1:40 PM:

    If he swoops in and saves the day, invoking the 14th Amendment, it is a guarantee that the House will impeach him. Then it gets kicked to the Senate where a supermajority would have to convict him. That will fail and he will be heading into November 2012 with two substantial wins in his pocket. I say go for it. The consequences of a global financial meltdown has no upside.

  • golack on July 22, 2011 1:41 PM:

    Would the Republican, I mean Roberts, Court rule in favor of Obama? Congress has the constitutional obligation see that the US debt not be questioned, so the President would have to sue them to do that--and the Court would refuse to step in, something about separation of powers, and then we lose the rule of law.

  • kc on July 22, 2011 1:41 PM:

    but I can’t help but note that Obama hasn’t categorically ruled out the constitutional option

    Right, he's just said that his lawyers think it's a big loser.

    Way to play poker, Obama!

  • Marko on July 22, 2011 1:45 PM:

    Lots of wiggle room there. At the end of the day, he will "reluctantly" invoke the 14th, even though he's known all along that was the best deal for all the non-crazy people.

  • Menthol on July 22, 2011 1:45 PM:

    I agree, kc. Those are not the comments you want to make if there's any chance you ultimately need to go down that road.

  • KK on July 22, 2011 1:46 PM:

    Contrary to Pillsy, I do not think the markets will care if he goes 14th. Maybe a hiccup but Wall St. knows more then most this is imperative. Liquidity in Treasury repo is very light today for any dates over 8/2. Lots of customers offering collateral long, most dealers laying off. This is not particularly unusual on a summer Friday but I sense a sea change in attitude if this drags longer. If he is forced to do it, he's forced to do it, the default option does not exist. BTW, if they defaulted, couldn't he be impeached on his failure to follow the 14th amendment?
    Also, since only Congress has standing to sue it won't hit the courts and if the R's go back to the impeachment crap I think it will be as effective as last time. Starting to think exposing the teatards and going 14th might be the best political outcome.

  • m2 on July 22, 2011 1:48 PM:

    �shall not be questioned.�

    He shoves every one of these bitches against the wall with their statements over the last month or so and puts them in jail.
    Then he gets impeached.

  • Alli on July 22, 2011 1:48 PM:

    Hey Steve, this is Obama. What he said depends on the listener. See your comment section.

  • Chris on July 22, 2011 1:49 PM:

    In the event that Obama invokes the Fourteenth Amendment and a constitutional crisis results, Obama's public comments seem to be designed to help the GOP win the argument. "Yeah, go ahead and impeach me. I deserve it."

  • Anthony Damiani on July 22, 2011 1:50 PM:

    The man goes to war on his own in Libya, and THIS is where he decides to hew the Constitutional line, come what may?

    Ah, well. There's always Platinum.

  • mcc on July 22, 2011 1:52 PM:

    Okay, so never mind the "14th amendment means Obama can raise the debt ceiling just by saying so" argument you see on blogs. What about the "14th amendment means Obama is required to pay back bondholders and isn't allowed to default" argument?

  • m2 on July 22, 2011 1:53 PM:

    wow, how did I do that? It was supposed to quotes, obviously.
    The point was: why does Obama get impeached when congress is "questioning" (tanking) the debt and credit if the United States. 14th doesn't specify who shall not.

  • Anonymous on July 22, 2011 1:56 PM:

    This is Obama offering an excuse for caving.

  • ted frier on July 22, 2011 1:57 PM:

    The reason they call it a "trump card" is that you use it only to trump all of the other cards that have already been played. That hasn't happened yet, and so I am not surprised that the President is not willing to acknowledge what he might be holding in his hand.

  • Flipside on July 22, 2011 1:58 PM:

    If the 14th section 4 does indeed mean that the debt limit law is unconstitutional, does this mean the President could be impeached for NOT raising the limit?

    Or rather, not fulfilling his obligations to the Constitution by unilaterally raising it when the discussion started instead of having these months of wasted time and effort on it?

    i.e. is the 14th section 4 a permission or a duty, if it applies at all?

  • square1 on July 22, 2011 1:59 PM:

    Is this evidence of Obama leaving himself just a little wiggle room, in case push comes to shove?

    I hope he doesn't think so. If the President has any intention of ignoring an explicit Congressional statute, he should express the authority to do so unapologetically, even if Obama doesn't plan to exercise the authority.

    For example, here is how George W. Bush would have handled it:

    "I have spoken to my lawyers -- heh, heh -- and they have told me that the Constitution is clear: Ours debts -- heh, heh -- cannot be questioned. My aw-thor-i-tee as the President allows me to instuct the treasury to pay the debts...that are being questioned.

    But it is important for the President and the Congress -- heh, heh -- to, uh, speak with...one voice. So the, uh...markets have certainty.

    So I call on Congress...to put a bill on my desk...by next week that raises the debt limit so that we can have certainty and -- heh, heh -- I do not have to use my, uh, powers...to keep the debt from being questioned."

  • Anonymous on July 22, 2011 1:59 PM:

    You folks are giving Obama too much credit. He doesn't know how to play the game.

  • Anonymous on July 22, 2011 2:00 PM:

    I'm getting the horrible feeling that Bush is smarter than Obama. The thought is really depressing.

  • Josef K on July 22, 2011 2:01 PM:

    Of course, there’s no telling how markets or the credit-rating agencies would respond to such a move, and there’s already been some chattering from far-right Republicans that they’d consider impeachment if Obama tried the move.

    For the former, I believe they'll be relieved and reassured. A decisive move like this would demonstrate the US economy still has leadership that will act when necessary, and isn't ruled by a pack of howling idiots.

    For the latter, I'm sure they'd try it, but whether they retain control of the House long enough to manage it is another question. They could try fast-tracking it, in which case we'll be seeing a distinct pattern become part of political norms: Republican Presidents can commit impeachable offenses without fear, and every Democratic President will somehow be impeached.

    The new normal, indeed.

  • Jon on July 22, 2011 2:02 PM:

    If it comes to Obama having to use the 14th, the damage is already done and he might as well leave the blame clearly with the GOP.

  • Eisbaer on July 22, 2011 2:02 PM:

    The escape clause doesn't lie in anything Obama has or hasn't said. The man's enough of a pussy to decline the constitutional option on principle (or even pique because those pesky non-New Democrats in Congress won't support his plan to slash social programs). The real escape clause will be if Obama gets some phone calls from his Wall Street puppetmasters on the eve of a default.

  • hildebrand on July 22, 2011 2:04 PM:

    Of course, if Obama had said he was thinking of going in this direction, the Republicans would draw up articles of impeachment today.

    Remember, anything Obama likes is something the Republicans must dislike - thus, if Obama thinks this isn't the way to go, the Republicans will beg him to do it.

  • Anonymous on July 22, 2011 2:04 PM:

    Declaring the 14th would also, as it would definitely get a decision from the Supreme Court, decide once and for all if Congress can pass spending bill willy nilly for political purposes then renege on them willy nilly for political purposes and try to leave the Executive Branch holding the responsibility like McConnell. Hell, let's see if the damn debt ceiling is Constitutional. The result can't be any worse that what the country is being forced to go through now and in the future by not knowing.

  • disgusted on July 22, 2011 2:07 PM:

    Obama is a Democrat in name Only. Obama wants to [continue to] enrich the fat cats as the expense of the poor, the working, the elderly. There is no other way to explain his behavior of the last two years.

  • T2 on July 22, 2011 2:12 PM:

    again.....a House impeachment does NOT remove a president from office. Ask Bill Clinton. To remove a president, it has to pass the Senate also, which it would not in this case. So go ahead Barack....use the 14th and save the nation.

  • Anonymous on July 22, 2011 2:15 PM:

    Wouldn't impeachment from those House aswholes be a badge of honor?

  • Kathryn on July 22, 2011 2:18 PM:

    Am I the only person who saw the Harvard Law Professor on Rachel Maddow's show who stated that Pres. Obama could invoke the 14th Amendment only after the August 3rd deadline or slightly before if panic is roiling the markets and threatening the United States government when he could act to save the Republic? I know the professor is only one guy but he is a Constitutional scholar. So in a dire emergency Pres. Obama would have to invoke the 14th Amendment to save our economy. Of course then all hell will break loose but what else is new, every day dealing with Boehner, Cantor, that big mouth from Illinois (Walsh) is hell. Maybe I'm dreaming, but I think most Americans would be happy to see Obama resolve it this way once it's proven that Boehner can't do his job, proven again that is.

    By the same token, I always underestimate the ingenuity of those who hate Obama and Democrats, not to mention their persistence.

  • Woodrow L. Goode, IV on July 22, 2011 2:18 PM:

    Well, of course Obama hates the 14th Amendment. I mean, if he uses it, he has no cover for cutting Social Security and Medicare.

    Barack Obama wants to gut the core programs of the Democratic Party, but he doesn't have the guts to just do it. He wants to manufacture a debt limit crisis so he can do it and claim that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner forced him to do it.

    This is why, when McConnell came up with an option that would permit Obama to raise the limit without being compelled to cut Social Security, Obama immediately got it off the table. Bill Clinton, who's forgotten more about politics than Obama will ever know, said he'd use the 14th as a club-- Obama keeps trashing it.

    As for whether Obama actually gives a crap about the law, this is the same guy who used an opinion from a gofer taking pre-law classes at a community college-- "You're not at war in Libya as long as you're only dropping bombs from unmanned bombers"-- to reject the opinion of the Attorney General, the Office of Legal Counsel and the Defense Department's chief counsel, which said Libya was subject to the War Powers Act.

    Obama isn't stupid. He isn't a bad negotiator. He's a guy who believes that Ronald Reagan was one of our greatest presidents-- he said it repeatedly in 2008-- and he's trying his best to put Reagan's policies into effect. The sooner people recognize that Obama is the enemy of social programs-- a guy who needs to be fought with the same fervor as Emperor W. the First-- the better chance we have of beating him.

  • square1 on July 22, 2011 2:19 PM:

    More Bush on the debt limit:

    "I have just spoken to, uh, the Speaker -- heh, heh -- and I told Speaker Pelosi that we need a vote. My economists have told me that if we do not pass this now the harm to the economy is incalculated. So, I told Ms. Pelosi - heh, heh -- that if she will not vote for this bill to save the economy that we need an up-or-down vote so that, uh, the members of her, uh, caucus, who want to save the economy, can make that vote.

    The, uh, Vice-President has told me -- heh, heh -- that he has spoken to Democrats in the House who, uh, want to vote to save the economy. It is...e-sen-shul...that their voices be heard."

  • Stetson Kennedy on July 22, 2011 2:22 PM:

    Is this evidence of Obama leaving himself just a little wiggle room, in case push comes to shove?

    I think this is right on point. I do believe that it's the last thing Obama wants to do, and he will take any reasonable steps to avoid it, but if there's an 11th hour, I believe he will use this option rather than risk default.

  • Irv Mermelstein on July 22, 2011 2:26 PM:

    1. I don't think the markets will give a hoot how the default is avoided, just so long as it is avoided. Institutional investors have very fine lawyers who, when asked if invoking Section 4 of Amendment 14 will result in a constitutional crisis, will likely opine that it does not. When there is no party with standing to sue you, and you are the president, then you don't worry about getting sued.
    2. If the president were to get sued, he can rest easy. He has a Justice Department to handle the case for him.
    3. If Obama is looking at impeachment as a result of invoking Section 4, that is life. If Obama wants to be thought of like Lincoln, he will have to act like Lincoln.
    3. If a default occurs, at least in my opinion, the only thing the Democrats need to worry about is the failure to invoke Section 4. That will make them co-owners of the default. Even if one were to argue that a "Constitutional crisis" were to occur, this is a perfectly good case for such a crisis.

  • KurtRex1453 on July 22, 2011 2:29 PM:

    Interesting discussion. If I were the Speaker, and I wanted to provide cover to use the 14th I would do exactly what I am doing. As for the Supremes, I think they would wisely step aside and leave this to the political process...

  • bigtuna on July 22, 2011 2:31 PM:

    I think part of the issue is it is not just about the 14th, but about how the who gig is sent up: Article 1 section 8 gives Congress the power to borrow money, and enable the credit of the US.

    the 14th amendment says that the debt "shall not be questioned".

    But section 5 of the 14th amendment says that Congress has the power to enforce the amendment.

    I am not a lawyer, but this avenue does not look very easy. It is the Congress that is putting the debt into question. But Congress seems to be the body that has the authority to enforce the issuance of debt, and making sure no one questions it.

    Imagine the fun we will have if the president "invokes" something to do with the 14th - all sorts of constitutional scholars arguing on TV, a federal lawsuit or two ,,, etc.
    It would be a further decline into an ungovernable state, in which presidents are chosen by non democratic electors, based on decisions of their brothers and corrupt officials, and chosen by their party's choices of judges ....

  • Trollop on July 22, 2011 2:32 PM:

    I knew he'd say it, WTF is this guy good for again? I see that some still believe he might if push comes to shove; I have trouble believing this given his history of waffling on just about everythinbg to a group of psychotics who call themselves legislators.

    The time for this bullshit was over 5 minutes before it started. If I were the President I would invoke the Constitutional option today. Is this guy on haloperidol or what?

  • zeitgeist on July 22, 2011 2:47 PM:

    square1, its slightly disturbing how well you can channel the ol' Deciderer. . .

  • square1 on July 22, 2011 2:54 PM:

    I think a lot of Republicans want Obama to use the 14th Amendment as an escape hatch from the box that they have climbed into. They then want to bash Obama over the head with it and possibly impeach him for it.

    I don't blame Obama for wanting to avoid that scenario, but I see his statement as being 0% based on legal analysis and 100% based on political analysis.

  • Cha on July 22, 2011 3:00 PM:

    Yeah, anyone can Anonymously spam crap all over the internet. Got to get those cheap shots on President Obama while he's out there doing all the work and cheap shots sit around spreading shit like boner.

  • Elie on July 22, 2011 3:02 PM:

    Troll op -- you have the correct handle: Troll

    shut yer yap. What are YOU good for? You obviously know nothing and can't stop running your yap to tell us what you don't know.

    This site has been flooded with anti Obama trolls and fake progressives.

    What is this, Red State by proxy?

  • candideinnc on July 22, 2011 3:03 PM:

    Your analysis is absolutely wrong. This is classic Obama tactic for dismissing a plan he doesn't want to follow. He has thrown away the Constitutional defense; after all, he admits EVEN HIS OWN LAWYERS DON'T ACCEPT IT.

    Obama wants a big, goddam Republican plan to attach the deficit, something that will further deplete the economy and put people out of work. He has bought the Republican idea of economics, and the hell with social safety nets. Harvard turned out a wolf in sheep's clothing! He is now a member of the upper class. He identifies with them, and he protects their interests.

  • wvmcl2 on July 22, 2011 3:06 PM:

    Remarkable how many commenters on this thread have got this one all figured out. Saved again by the keyboard brigade.

  • Sam on July 22, 2011 3:07 PM:

    I'm becoming a bigger fan of this option as time draws nearer.

    1) It's clear a small but significant group of conservatives have extreme views about where they want to take the country, and have shown thus far they have the backbone to see it through.

    2) Said conservatives are working every trajectory they can to basically cripple the Constitutional United States government, and return to an Articles of Confederation style government. They may argue they are simple strict constitutionalists, but I don't see how you can read their rhetoric and not get the impression that what they really mean (but in cases may be to ignorant to understand) is their want for the AOCs back.

    3) The Tea Party has provided the President with two options, A) Cut the Federal government beyond it's core, and give us what we want; B) We'll bankrupt and collapse the Federal government to get what we want.

    Callers in to Rush Limbaugh show are asking what departments of government should we kill first WHEN we bankrupt the government.

    Unilaterally raising the debt ceiling may set off a Constitutional crisis, but at least it would give the majority of Americans a voice and set of options before a small but powerful group of right-wing extremists reshape the country in their image.

  • beep52 on July 22, 2011 3:10 PM:

    Every future Democratic president will be impeached by a Republican House, regardless of what he or she does, because Republican's do not hold valid the results of any election they do not win.

    I have no doubt that the idea of 14th Ammendment option has actually caused some on the right dig in their heels even further, essentially forcing him to use it so they can impeach him.

  • Elie on July 22, 2011 3:15 PM:


    He "admitted" nothing. You read or heard an interview in the media and drew your own conclusions about what his lawyers have or have not said. Unless you are one of the folks on the deep inside with his administration, which I very much doubt, you don't know what his lawyers did or did not say. Only what the President said about what they said. Who knows what gambit or angle he is exploting. You take what the administration states as a literal communication that is to be taken on its face for what it seems to be saying.

    You have never played Poker or any kind of strategy game or employed anything like that in your own life, have you? Someone selling you something says it costs "X" and you just reach for your wallet, every damned time. Sucker.

    Alternately, you are just one more anti adminstration troll out here to criticize and demoralize. Only purpose is to give those who support the President the belief that huge numbers of people are against him. You are agents for and support the Republican strategy to undermine by any means necessary.

  • Eisbaer on July 22, 2011 3:31 PM:

    Putting aside legal analyses, the constitutional option makes sense from a political viewpoint. Maybe my story is purely anecdotal, but personally I never supported President Clinton so much as I did after his impeachment during Monicagate. Non anecdotally, I think that it DID largely unite the Democrats against the Republicans (vacillating self-interested worms like Lieberman aside). Politically, if Obama executed the constitutional option he may find that he has quite a bit more enthusiastic support from liberals than he had before.

    Of course, Bill Clinton had two things going for him that Obama apparently doesn't: (1) Clinton had a pair of balls; and (2) as moderate and incremental as he was, even Clinton knew where he couldn't step without fatally undermining his support among the Democratic Party's base.

  • candideinnc on July 22, 2011 3:32 PM:

    And Elie, you are another Obamabot enabler . Lemmings like you are the reason the Democrats were decimated in 2010, and if you don't wake up, it is going to happen again in 2012, except then we are likely to lose the executive branch as well as the House.

  • Trollop on July 22, 2011 3:42 PM:

    Well, golly Elie, I guess I've upset you! Good! I will not "shut my yap", I have been around here a lot longer than ever I have seen you. No worry, as we're both entitled to our opinions here. I voted for Obama expecting him to be a leader, and just like you, he has turned out rather dissapointing. You did get the Troll from Trollop, I'll give you that much.

  • N.Wells on July 22, 2011 3:45 PM:

    Of a great many stupid comments above, Wooodrow Goode's might be the worst. Obama does not want to "gut the core programs of the Democratic Party": he apparently wants to trim them slightly and set Social Security on a long-term secure foundation. People can certainly disagree with his goals and how he is going about them, but nothing indicates that he wants to "gut" them. Since he has raised the issue, it is clear that he does in fact have the guts to pursue unpopular options. Nor does he "want to manufacture a debt limit crisis": he is clearly trying to resolve the one that we already have that was created by the republicans.

    Obama has never called Reagan one of our greatest presidents: when campaigning he said words to the effect that Reagan had been unusually effective at changing the status quo and that he would like to be similarly effective, as in changing the game again, not as in pursuing Reagan's goals.

    "The sooner people recognize that Obama is the enemy of social programs-- a guy who needs to be fought with the same fervor as Emperor W. the First-- the better chance we have of beating him." Obama is the only president who ever managed to get any form of national health care passed. You may not like the form it took, but he got it passed.

  • Ted Frier on July 22, 2011 4:13 PM:

    In case anyone hasn't noticed, our chief executives have been doing a whole lot of things lately that are neither legal nor constitutional. So, I am willing to bet that even the right wing Supreme Court would cut the President some slack if he acted unilaterally to save the world from financial Armageddon.

  • cmdicely on July 22, 2011 5:19 PM:

    Facts reported in the story don't match the characterization in the story:

    Fact: “I have talked to my lawyers,” Mr. Obama said, and “they are not persuaded that that is a winning argument.”

    Characterization: Mr. Obama [...] ruled out [...] the idea that the Constitution empowers a president to increase the debt limit [...]

    These two things don't match up.

  • emjayay on July 22, 2011 5:54 PM:

    Maybe his lawyers told him it was probably legally OK, (which he should be able to figure out on his own given his educational and work background) but maybe not a "winning arguement" politically. And Obama, buying the R crap and always deciding to not play his stongest hand, and thinking about the unpredictablily of the Supreme Court on an issue that will try their pro-authority, pro big business/Wall Street vs. anti Democrat instincts, is chicken. Wouldn't want to be divisive or anything.

    BTW I'm still voting for him if it's him vs. whatever AntiChrist the R's run. That's just how it works. Hope he gets primaried from the left (where else is there?) but can't think of who would have a chance of any success.

  • Elie on July 22, 2011 6:07 PM:

    Well I have been around for probably longer than you though I do not always comment, Troll.

    why would someone call themselves a troll unless they were purposely being negative?

    You could not possibly have ever supported this President nor have many of you.

    Eisbaer -- Obama has monster balls... that you could say this and understand any of the circumastances that we have been in and what has been accomplished lets me know you know nothing. If I am an Obot, you are a bootlicking Republican faker. With so called friends or supporters like you, he is better off dealing with the Tea Party. They may actually be smarter than you are.

  • JM917 on July 22, 2011 6:19 PM:

    It may be that Obama is ruling out the 14th Amendment route because of ambiguities over whether it would apply to debt going forward rather than merely existing debt (which, however, requires interest payments going forward).

    But that doesn't mean that Obama could not act on the basis of imminent danger to the nation's political and economic order--in other words, a grave public emergency. On that basis Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War and FDR took the U.S. off the gold standard in 1933.

    There is an excellent op-ed in today's New York Times co-authored by an eminent U. Chicago law professor, Eric Posner, that makes just this argument--and asserts that it would be politically a win for Obama and a crushing defeat for the Republican obstructionists.

    It would be ideal to get a clean raise of the debt ceiling, without tax increases, spending cuts, or idiotic constititional amendments. Fight those battles at the appropriate times. End the hostage taking, and if comes to a court challenge, let's hope that the 1939 law is declared unconstitional.

  • Jim on July 22, 2011 7:28 PM:

    It's hard to believe that Obama is an attorney, he cedes points and positions that could be used in negotiation constantly.

    Now again, why did Democrats feel he would be a better president than Hillary Clinton??

  • Anonymous on July 22, 2011 8:30 PM:

    "Of course, there’s no telling how markets or the credit-rating agencies would respond to such a move, and there’s already been some chattering from far-right Republicans that they’d consider impeachment if Obama tried the move."

    I would imagine that the markets and rating agencies would be satisfied if everyone were getting paid. I don't know, but what would be the complaint?

    As for impeachment, while again I do not know for certain, it stands to reason that the Sipreme Court ruling the move constitutional would make successful impeachment nearly impossible.

  • Doug on July 22, 2011 10:40 PM:

    "I have talked to my lawyers...they are not persuaded that that is a winning argument." President Obama, quoted by Steve Benen.

    "I don't think we should even get to the constitutional issue." President Obama, Twitter Town Hall transcript.

    According to the first statement, President Obama's lawyers do not believe invoking the 14th Amendment to be "a winning argument." Without further information, the only safe presumption must be that the lawyers' advice is based on the LEGALITY of invoking the 14th Amendment to support action by the Executive branch. Had Mr. Obama wanted political advice, he has many political advisors whose jobs are just that: advising him on political matters.
    The second statement is more nebulous. It could mean President Obama doesn't think the impasse will continue to a point where invoking the 14th Amendment may be considered or, more likely in my opinion, it means the President believes the House Republicans would be derelict SHOULD the impasse reach a point where invoking the 14th Amendment is seriously discussed.
    Neither statement rules out President Obama invoking the 14th Amendment. Neither statement says he WILL invole the 14th Amendment.
    That's all folks!