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Can Obama Ignore Congress if they Refuse to Raise the Debt Ceiling? Yes!

June 30, 2011

Obama brushed off question about whether the debt limit is constitutional at Wednesday press conference As both major parties debate their conditions for raising the nation's debt ceiling, some Senate Democrats and constitutional scholars are questioning whether the limit is constitutional in the first place.

Delaware Sen. Chris Coons told The Huffington Post this week that he's part of a group of lawmakers now examining whether, in the case that debt negotiations fail, the Treasury could ignore Congress and continue paying its bills on time.

"This is an issue that's been raised in some private debate between senators as to whether in fact we can default, or whether that provision of the Constitution can be held up as preventing default," Coons told Huffington Post reporters Ryan Grim and Samuel Haass. "[I]t's going to get a pretty strong second look as a way of saying, 'Is there some way to save us from ourselves?' "

Critics of the debt limit cite the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which states: "the validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned." (Emphasis ours)

Of course, the Fourteenth Amendment is open to wide, and varying, interpretation and debate. The most basic question here is, does a limit on debt "question" the "validity" of the debt?

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