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Argument: Debt unquestionable under 14th; Obama can raise ceiling

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In 1935, the Supreme Court held that despite the Civil War context, the amendment clearly referred to all federal debt, providing a justification for Obama acting to uphold US public debt obligations in 2011: "While [the 14th Amendment] was undoubtedly inspired by the desire to put beyond question the obligations of the government issued during the Civil War, its language indicates a broader connotation. We regard it as confirmatory of a fundamental principle which applies as well to the government bonds in question, and to others duly authorized by the Congress as to those issued before the amendment was adopted. Nor can we perceive any reason for not considering the expression 'the validity of the public debt' as embracing whatever concerns the integrity of the public obligations."[1]


The 14th Amendment says that the validity of the U.S. public debt shall not be questioned. This means that Congress is violating the 14th Amendment if it voluntarily defaults on US loans. The President, therefore, pursuant to Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, has the authority to act to override Congressional violations of the Constitution and raise the debt limit.[2]


John Sloan. "U.S. Constitution has answer to debt-ceiling issue." Las Vegas Sun. July 31st, 2011: "Section 4 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. 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 language seems quite clear to me that the validity of the public debt of the United States shall not be questioned if authorized by law. Therefore, those who are sworn to uphold the law who do question raising the debt limit so we can pay obligations already incurred, and as authorized by law, are in violation of their oath of office. Those who refuse to vote to raise the debt limit, unless certain concessions are made by the opposing party, are violating the Constitution of the United States.

A bill that has been incurred, as authorized by law, is a bill that must be paid. No questions! So, the president should have stepped in and insisted that the bills get paid. He also should have reminded those who are in violation of their oath of office that there are possible repercussions."


July 31st letter to Obama from Rep John Conyers, Congressional Black Caucus: Dear Mr. President: We urge you to invoke section 4 of the 14th Amendment of the United States Constitution to raise the debt ceiling and enable the United States government to meet its financial obligations if Congress fails to act in time. We believe that you have both the authority and a moral obligation to do so in order to avoid an economic catastrophe of historic proportions."[3]

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