The Biden administration and congressional Republicans are facing off over the looming debt ceiling, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Sunday said invoking the 14th Amendment to get around it and keep borrowing money to pay the nation‘s bills would risk a “constitutional crisis.”
But when pressed by ABC “This Week“ anchor George Stephanopoulos on whether the administration was considering using the 14th Amendment, Yellen avoided ruling it out entirely.
“What to do if Congress fails to meet its responsibility? There are simply no good options, and the ones that you‘ve listed are among the not good options,” Yellen said.
Yellen said the only way to avoid an unprecedented default as soon as next month is for Congress to pass legislation raising or suspending the debt ceiling, even as the White House and congressional Democrats appear to be in a stalemate with Republicans over GOP demands to tie steep spending cuts to the debt limit.
President Joe Biden said on Friday that he has not yet looked into using the 14th Amendment as a solution, but Yellen said on “This Week“ that the White House‘s priority is to make sure Congress does its job.
“There is no way to protect our financial system in our economy other than Congress doing its job and raising the debt ceiling and enabling us to pay our bills,” Yellen said. “And we should not get to the point where we need to consider whether the president can go on issuing debt. This would be a constitutional crisis.”
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R–Calif., insists that the president agree to steep budget cuts as a condition of getting GOP support for a debt limit increase, a position shared by many congressional Republicans.
On Saturday, 43 GOP senators signed onto a letter to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that said they would not vote “for cloture on any bill that raises the debt ceiling without substantive spending and budget reforms.”
Biden, meanwhile, says the debt should be separated from any compromise on the budget and spending.
Yellen echoed the president, saying, “It‘s entirely reasonable to be able to sit down and say, if we‘re continuing to add more and more debt, let‘s talk about the whole view.”
“Our priority is to make sure that Congress does its job. And we should not get to the point where we need to consider whether the president can go on issuing debt. This would be a constitutional crisis,” Yellen said.
Biden is set to meet with the leaders of each chamber of Congress on Tuesday to discuss spending and the debt, and Yellen said that the only way to avoid an economic catastrophe is for Congress to pass legislation raising or suspending the debt ceiling.
“Since 1960, the debt ceiling has been raised 78 times, three times during the prior administration, always with bipartisan support,” Yellen said. “And it simply is unacceptable for Congress to threaten economic calamity for American households and the global financial system as the cost of raising the debt ceiling and getting the agreements on budget priorities.”