The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

The Justice Department Should Not Defend The Legal Incoherence That Is The Debt Ceiling

On Friday, May 19, the National Association of Government Employees filed an emergency motion in their lawsuit against President Joe Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen. NAGE urged the Massachusetts District Court to issue a preliminary injunction holding that the debt ceiling violates the separation of powers and Presentment Clause set forth in Articles I and II of the U.S. Constitution.

Revolving Door Project Executive Director Jeff Hauser said: “Attorney General Merrick Garland must refuse to defend the unconstitutional legal incoherence that is the debt ceiling. The Justice Department should file papers supporting the National Association of Government Employees’ request, and should do so as soon as possible. There is no justification for the Biden administration to dither when an active lawsuit demands immediate response.”

“NAGE’s argument is sound, and indeed, has been all but endorsed by the President himself. Garland has no reason to defend the nonsense which is the debt ceiling, besides a vague sense of formality and tradition driven by elite political etiquette. The cost of prioritizing tradition for tradition's sake would be irreparable harm to the U.S. and global economies, caused by a first-ever U.S. default as soon as June 1—or else complete capitulation to the ultra-MAGA faction of the House Republican caucus that marionettes Kevin McCarthy.”

“While President Biden may be willing to keep channels open until the very last minute with nihilistic, bad-faith Republican lawmakers, the Justice Department’s obligation is to the Constitution, which is unequivocal: the president cannot pick and choose what congressionally appropriated obligations to meet, and the debt of the United States shall not be questioned. Garland may be constitutionally reluctant to seek the spotlight, but this crisis threatens the stability of the nation, and indeed, the global economy. He should not prioritize his own sense of formality over the language of the Constitution he swore to uphold.”

The Justice Department must file an answer to NAGE’s lawsuit by June 6. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has estimated that the nation may breach the debt ceiling on June 1.

The Revolving Door Project (RDP) scrutinizes executive branch appointees to ensure they use their office to serve the broad public interest, rather than to entrench corporate power or seek personal advancement.