Ilhan Omar and Pramila Jayapal

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) (left) and Deputy Chair Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) walk together in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on May 11, 2022.

(Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

66 House Progressives Call On Biden to Invoke 14th Amendment to Thwart GOP 'Hostage-Taking'

"We don't need to give in to Republican extortion or default," the House progressives asserted. "The Constitution grants the president another option."

After GOP House negotiators bailed on U.S. debt ceiling talks on Friday, around two-thirds of the Congressional Progressive Caucus urged President Joe Biden to "invoke his constitutional authority granted in the 14th Amendment" in order "to end Republican hostage-taking of the economy that could trigger a financial catastrophe."

Led by Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Deputy Chair Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Whip Greg Casar (D-Texas), 66 CPC members sent Biden a letter noting the "unremitting efforts by congressional Republicans to hold the economic health of our nation hostage," and calling on him to "fulfill the executive's constitutional duty to faithfully and impartially administer the funds already enacted by law at the direction of Congress."

The letter—which follows a similar call from some Senate Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—cites Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which states that "the validity of the public debt of the United States... shall not be questioned."

Biden said earlier this month that he has been "considering" invoking the 14th Amendment, "but the problem is, it would have to be litigated," and "I don't think that solves our problem now."

"Congressional Republicans who now refuse to pass a clean debt ceiling increase voted on three separate occasions under President [Donald] Trump to raise the debt ceiling without any preconditions or extraneous, harmful policies attached," the lawmakers noted. "They now threaten the full faith and credit of the United States, which Treasury Secretary [Janet] Yellen warned would 'produce an economic and financial catastrophe' and could occur as soon as June 1."

The letter points out that although House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) "stated that 'the greatest threat to our future is our national debt,' he led House Republicans in passing the 'Limit, Save, Grow Act,' which rescinds funding for [Internal Revenue Service] enforcement against tax evasion by wealthy individuals, which would increase the deficit by nearly $500 billion over the next 10 years."

"Republicans—who in 2017 voted unanimously to pass the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that increased the federal deficit by $1.9 trillion over 10 years, with 83% of the law's benefits estimated to accrue to the richest 1% by 2027—also rejected commonsense proposals offered by your negotiators to close tax loopholes and raise revenue in the current budget discussions," the progressives added.

The letter continues:

We believe that relenting to Congressional Republicans' economic ransom and negotiating on devastating budget cuts, additional work requirements for essential food and economic support, and fast-tracking fossil fuel projects that undermine our shared climate achievements is antithetical to our shared Democratic values. Surrendering to these extremist demands also sets a dangerous precedent that emboldens Republicans to pursue additional, anti-democratic hostage-taking, particularly after having been told previously that a clean debt ceiling increase was nonnegotiable.

GOP leaders insist that any debt ceiling deal would have to come with cuts to social safety net programs, and Biden has signaled his openness to considering some reductions. The CPC letter warns that the Republican framework could take jobs from 780,000 people; nutrition assistance from 1.2 million women, infants, and children; Medicaid coverage from up to 21 million Americans; rental assistance from 640,000 families; and more.

"If the options are either agreeing to major cuts to domestic priorities under the Republican threat of destroying the economy and moving forward to honor America's debts, we join prominent legal scholars, economists, former budget officials, and a former president in advocating for invoking the 14th Amendment of the Constitution," the progressives wrote.

"Not only does the debt ceiling run counter to the Constitution's mandate that the validity of America's public debt shall not be questioned," their letter adds, "it contradicts the appropriations law that requires the Treasury to issue debt for the funding you are obligated to administer at Congress' direction."

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