Biden says he likely has authority to use 14th Amendment on debt ceiling, but it may be too late

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President Joe Biden said Sunday that he believes he has the authority to invoke the 14th Amendment to resolve the debt-ceiling crisis, but that it may be too late in the game to go that route.

“I’m looking at the 14th Amendment, as to whether or not we have the authority.  I think we have the authority,” Biden said, speaking to reporters in Japan following the G-7 summit.

“The question is: Could it be done and invoked in time that it could not — would not — be appealed and, as a consequence, pass the date in question and still default on the debt.  That’s a question that I think is unresolved,” he added.

Biden said congressional leaders have pledged the nation will not default, so invoking the 14th Amendment should not be necessary.

“When we sat in the room with all the leaders, from Mitch McConnell on, and they said, ‘We will not default.  Period.  We will not default.’  That’s what all, including Kevin McCarthy, said.  ‘We will not default,’” Biden said. “I’m assuming that we mean what we say, and we’ll figure out a way to not have to default.”

The 14th Amendment reads in part: “The validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned,” and in theory, invoking it would make it unconstitutional for the U.S. to default if Congress does not raise the debt ceiling.

Read more: The 14th Amendment: Here’s how it relates to the debt-ceiling debate

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen echoed Biden that it’s likely too late in the process to try to use the 14th Amendment.

“It doesn’t seem like something that could be appropriately used in these circumstances, given the legal uncertainty around it, and given the tight timeframe we’re on,” she said in an interview Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

In an appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said Biden’s position on the 14th Amendment is “legally frivolous.”

“That’s a provision that was put in place to say that we’re going to pay our Civil War debts,” Cruz said “It refers to the Civil War that we had just fought and paying those war debts off.”

Speaking in Japan on Sunday morning, Biden called on Republicans to drop their “extreme positions” and be open to compromise in debt-ceiling negotiations. Later in the day, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said he and Biden will meet in person Monday following a “productive” phone conversation while Biden was flying home.

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