At a press conference Monday, President Obama confirmed that he would not use the 14th Amendment to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling unless both houses of Congress gave him the express authority to do so.
“14th Amendment: 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. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.”
The United States officially hit its $16.394 trillion legal debt limit on Dec. 31. As a result, until the debt ceiling is raised, Treasury is not allowed to borrow new money to help it pay all the country's financial obligations.
“I think the Constitution is clear and I think this idea that the Congress gets to vote twice on whether to pay for expenditures it has appropriated is crazy,” Former President Clinton said, adding that he would invoke the 14th amendment “without hesitation, and force the courts to stop me.”
This safeguarded Congress from years of disruptive politics. Second, they saw the necessity in guaranteeing the federal debt in case rebel sympathizers returning to Congress threatened to repudiate it for political ends.
In the meantime, the Treasury Department has resorted to "extraordinary measures" to keep paying Uncle Sam's bills. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has said he expects those measures to run out between mid February and early March, setting the stage for yet another fight on Capitol Hill.
"If congressional Republicans refuse to pay America's bills on time, Social Security checks and veterans' benefits will be delayed," Obama told reporters Monday. "We might not be able to pay our troops, or honor our contracts with small business owners. ... Investors around the world will ask if the United States of America is, in fact, a safe bet."
“If Congress wants to put the responsibility on me to raise the debt ceiling, I’m happy to take it,” he said. “But if they want to keep this responsibility, then they need to go ahead and get it done.”
How this might work is also a bit of a mystery: Republicans, including those who control the U.S. House, have made clear they will not vote to increase the debt ceiling without corresponding budget cuts.
President Obama called Republican talk of not raising the limit—of, in effect, not paying the country’s bills—“irresponsible” and “absurd.” He said the GOP will “not collect a ransom in return for crashing the economy.