Bernie Sanders and several Democratic lawmakers on Thursday urged US President Joe Biden to use the power granted to him by a constitutional amendment to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval.
“Is the 14th Amendment the perfect solution? No, but using it would allow America to continue to pay its bills on time and avoid economic catastrophe and devastating cuts for some of the most vulnerable people in the country,” Sanders told a press conference.
That amendment provides that the validity of the US public debt, authorised by law, will not be challenged, and the president could rely on it on the grounds that he has a constitutional duty to avoid default.
The request to bypass the usual channels has the backing of 11 senators so far and comes at a time when Biden has stepped up negotiations with congressional leaders to try to reach a deal.
The ‘Democrats’ urge Biden to skip the parliamentary process to raise the public debt ceiling
On Wednesday, the president said he was convinced they would reach a deal, but cancelled his planned trip to Papua New Guinea and Australia after the G7 summit (Germany, France, Italy, the UK, the US, Canada and Japan) in Japan in order to return to Washington to continue negotiations.
“The president should exercise his authority under the 14th Amendment to protect our economy and our country’s credit,” Senator Ed Markey told reporters, adding that Biden should do “what is necessary” to prevent Republicans from “pushing the economy off a cliff”.
The group said it will support him in the process: “We know this road has not been traveled before and that every president hesitates to go down uncharted paths, but we have his back. We stand with him against this kind of unacceptable hostage-taking,” stressed lawmaker Jeff Merkley.
The United States has never defaulted on its national debt, but from time to time the possibility arises because, unlike other countries, its executive can only issue debt up to the limit set by Congress, which has the power to suspend that ceiling as it sees fit.
The current limit of $31.4 trillion was reached last January.
The government is currently drawing from its reserves to pay off the debts it has incurred, but the Treasury Department estimates that those reserves will be exhausted on 1 June.
Republicans are trying to make raising it contingent on spending cuts, but Democrats oppose linking the two: “It would be as disastrous to default on the debt as it would be to pass the outrageous Republican proposal,” Sanders warned.