Read into this what you will, but President Barack Obama did not specifically rule out working around Congress to raise the nation’s borrowing limit if Congress does not
permit a hike before an Oct. 17 deadline.
In an interview with The Associated Press that was published on Saturday, Obama ducked the question of whether he is “willing to take other action” to prevent default. He only said that he expected Congress would pass a bill to raise it.
Here’s the key exchange:
Q: But if they don’t, if they get up to this deadline and they are not willing to pass this clean debt ceiling that you’re asking them to do, would you be willing to take other action to prevent default?
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t expect to get there. There were at least some quotes yesterday that Speaker Boehner is willing to make sure that we don’t default. And just as is true with the government shutdown, there are enough votes in the House of Representatives to make sure that the government reopens today. And I’m pretty willing to bet that there are enough votes in the House of Representatives right now to make sure that the United States doesn’t end up being a deadbeat. The only thing that’s preventing that from happening is Speaker Boehner calling the vote.
The possibility that Obama will have to work around Congress to raise the debt has been increasingly discussed by analysts over the past week.
Some — including President Bill Clinton — have said he can do that by invoking the 14th Amendment, a Reconstruction-era amendment that says that “the validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.”
But usually, he and members of his administration make a point of noting that it is not a legally tenable option. Just this past week, on a conference call previewing a report warning of the economic catastrophe of breaching the debt ceiling, a Treasury Department official said the administration doesn’t believe anyone except Congress can raise the debt ceiling.
And here’s what Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters in the daily press briefing on Thursday:
“This administration does not believe that the 14th Amendment gives the power to the President to ignore the debt ceiling. So we do not believe that the 14th Amendment provides that authority to the President. Moreover, even if the President could ignore the debt ceiling, the fact that there is significant controversy around the President’s authority to act unilaterally means that it would not be a credible alternative to Congress raising the debt ceiling and would not be taken seriously by the global economy or the markets.”
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