U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the debt ceiling at the White House on May 9, 2023.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the debt ceiling at the White House on May 9, 2023.

(Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Biden 'Considering' 14th Amendment But Downplays Using It to End Debt Limit Fight

"The problem is, it would have to be litigated," the president said of the strategy. "I don't think that solves our problem now."

After meeting with congressional leaders at the White House Tuesday afternoon, U.S. President Joe Biden told reporters he has been "considering" invoking the 14th Amendment to the Constitution to avert a catastrophic default, but he also suggested that doing so won't solve the current battle with House Republicans.

With Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and others warning that the U.S. could face its first-ever default as soon as June 1, some legal experts and members of Congress have promoted unilateral action by Biden—such as minting a $1 trillion coin or citing the 14th Amendment, which says in part that the validity of the public debt "shall not be questioned," to justify continuing to pay the nation's bills even if GOP lawmakers won't raise the official borrowing limit.

"I have been considering the 14th Amendment" and Laurence Tribe "thinks that it would be legitimate," Biden said Tuesday evening, describing the Harvard University professor emeritus as "a man I have enormous respect for" and "who advised me for a long time."

"But the problem is, it would have to be litigated," the president said of the strategy, which Tribe advocated for in an opinion piece for The New York Times on Sunday. Biden later added that "I don't think that solves our problem now."

The president signaled that he is looking into asking the federal judiciary to weigh in on the 14th Amendment debate "months down the road," after settling the ongoing dispute with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

House Republicans last month passed their so-called Limit, Save, Grow Act, which would raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion or until March 31, 2024, whichever comes first, but also impose dramatic spending cuts that would affect working families. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has called the legislation "dead on arrival."

Both McCarthy and Schumer were at the White House for Biden's 4:00 pm ET meeting, along with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Biden, who unveiled his budget blueprint in March, said that "I told congressional leaders that I'm prepared to begin a separate discussion about my budget and spending priorities, but not under the threat of default."

Schumer said after the meeting that "we explicitly asked Speaker McCarthy, would he take default off the table. He refused. President Biden said he would; Leader Jeffries said he would; of course, I said I would, but he wouldn't take it off the table."

"The bottom line is very simple: There are large differences between the parties," he continued, flanked by Jeffries. "If you look at what President Biden had proposed and you look at what Speaker McCarthy has proposed, they're very, very different. We can try to come together on those, in a budget and appropriations process, but to use the risk of default—with all the dangers that has for the American people—as a hostage and say it's my way or no way, or mostly my way or no way, is dangerous."

McConnell claimed that "the United States is not going to default; it never has and it never will," but also made clear that Senate Republicans aren't interested in a clean debt limit increase and stressed that Biden and McCarthy must reach an agreement.

McCarthy, meanwhile, said that "everybody in this meeting reiterated the positions they were at. I didn't see any new movement."

According to Biden, the meeting attendees' staffs will continue to communicate this week and another meeting is set for Friday.

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