President Joe Biden speaks during an event in the Rose Garden of the White House

President Joe Biden speaks during an event in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 25, 2023.

(Photo: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

'We Don't Have a Plan B': Top Treasury Official Says Biden Won't Invoke 14th Amendment

Numerous progressive lawmakers, legal scholars, and advocacy groups have implored the president to use his authority under the 14th Amendment to prevent a GOP-induced default.

A top U.S. Treasury Department official said Friday that President Joe Biden will not use his 14th Amendment authority to continue paying the nation's bills and avert a Republican-induced default if tenuous debt ceiling talks with the GOP fall apart.

Asked by CNN's Poppy Harlow whether the Biden administration would attempt to invoke the 14th Amendment if a deal with Republicans appears out of reach, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo responded that "the 14th Amendment can't solve our challenges."

"Now, ultimately, the only thing that can do that is Congress doing what it's done 78 other times, raising the debt limit," said Adeyemo. "We don't have a Plan B that allows us to meet the commitments that we've made to our creditors, to our seniors, to our veterans, to the American people."

When asked if that was a "no," Adeyemo replied: "I think the president and the [Treasury] secretary have been very clear that that will not solve our problems now. So yes, that is a no."


A number of advocacy groups, constitutional scholars, and lawmakers have implored Biden to at least consider using his 14th Amendment authority to prevent a default as the June 1 " X-date" approaches. The amendment states that "the validity of the public debt of the United States... shall not be questioned."

Default, as UCLA School of Law professor Joseph Fishkin recently pointed out, would "violate the 14th Amendment, which is not an 'option,' but a bedrock of our constitutional order—it is there whether or not anybody invokes it."

"The Biden administration has a constitutional duty to 'take care that the laws be faithfully executed,'" Fishkin wrote last week. "That means all the laws Congress has enacted, not just the debt-ceiling law."

On Thursday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) toldCNN's Anderson Cooper that while he doesn't think the 14th Amendment is a "wonderful solution" to the debt ceiling crisis, he sees it as preferable to allowing Republicans to tank the global economy in pursuit of massive cuts to aid programs.

While Biden said earlier this month that he was considering making use of his 14th Amendment powers to stop an economic catastrophe, he has questioned whether such a move would survive legal challenges.

Sanders said Thursday that he believes it would.

"I think the courts do not want to see the world economy crumble," said Sanders, "and I think it would be sustained."

"If he wants to protect his reputation and our country, he should refuse to budge an inch on the debt ceiling and use his constitutional authority under the 14th Amendment to bypass this entire manufactured crisis."

With June 1 just six days away, White House negotiators and Republican lawmakers are discussing an agreement that would lift the debt ceiling for two years in exchange for two-year spending caps that would cut federal spending, impacting nutrition assistance, housing aid, and other key domestic programs.

The deal that the White House and GOP are discussing would also slash $10 billion from recently approved funding for the Internal Revenue Service, a move that critics said would be a major gift to rich tax cheats.

"A debt ceiling agreement that cuts IRS funding would be an embarrassing disgrace for both the GOP and President Biden," Morris Pearl, chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, said in a statement Friday. "Agreeing to IRS funding cuts as a bargaining chip in debt ceiling negotiations would be an enormous stain on Biden's legacy."

"If he wants to protect his reputation and our country," Pearl added, "he should refuse to budge an inch on the debt ceiling and use his constitutional authority under the 14th Amendment to bypass this entire manufactured crisis."

Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen are the plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed earlier this month by the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE), a union that argues the debt ceiling is unconstitutional.

The president has signaled he will oppose the lawsuit, and a hearing in the case has been set for May 31—one day before the "X-date."

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