The White House does not 'have a plan B' if lawmakers fail to raise the debt ceiling — and Biden will not solve the crisis without Congress, the Deputy Treasury Secretary says
- The White House doesn't have a backup plan if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling, Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said.
- He added that Biden will not consider using the 14th Amendment to address the crisis.
President Joe Biden's administration officials are once again making clear they think it's Congress' job to raise the debt ceiling and avoid a default in a matter of days.
As Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned multiple times this week, the US could run out of money to pay its bills as soon as June 1. Even with the increasingly tightening deadline, Biden and Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy are still at odds over what should be included in an eventual debt ceiling agreement — and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle don't want to cave on their respective parties' demands.
Conservative lawmakers, for example, want McCarthy to hold the line on including provisions like banning student-loan forgiveness and strengthening work requirements on federal programs in a deal, while progressive lawmakers have repeatedly warned Biden against caving to GOP priorities. That's why a group of Democratic lawmakers have called on Biden to prepare to invoke a clause in the 14th Amendment that experts have said would declare a default, and therefore the debt ceiling, unconstitutional, getting rid of the debate forever.
But Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo has once again thrown cold water on that idea.
"The 14th Amendment can't solve our challenges," Adeyemo said on CNN on Friday morning. "Now, ultimately, the only thing that can do that is Congress doing what it's done 78 other times, raising the debt limit. 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."
"The only plan we have is the one that's worked for more than 200 years in this country, which is the United States of America needs to pay all these bills and pay them on time. And Congress has the ability to do that and the President is calling on them to act on that as quickly as possible," Adeyemo said, adding that "the question was whether the United States would use the 14th Amendment. I think the president and the secretary have been very clear that that will not solve our problems now. So yes, that is a no."
Biden said during a recent press conference that he thinks he has the authority to invoke the 14th Amendment, but he added that "the question is: Could it be done and invoked in time that it would not be appealed and, as a consequence, pass the date in question and still default on the debt?" Yellen also previously said that "there would clearly be litigation around that; it's not a short-run solution. It's legally questionable whether or not that's a viable strategy."
Still, as Insider previously reported, Democratic lawmakers in support of going that route to solve the crisis don't want the president to worry about the potential legal challenges.
"There's a window before the Supreme Court signs off on it where there will, in fact, be uncertainty," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said on a press call last week. "But one would hope that you could find a way if really, the kind of consequences that we foresee are happening, to get quickly to the Supreme Court, have them resolve the question quickly, and frankly, the sooner you begin that process, the sooner you end that process."
And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently told Politico that the 14th Amendment is an option where "the president should absolutely have this on the table."
"It's not even a question of leverage, it's not a question of negotiation. It's a question of saving our economy from potential disaster," Ocasio-Cortez said. "And Kevin McCarthy has decided to take the entire US economy hostage in exchange for vague and unfocused demands or gestures, I should really call them. It is profoundly irresponsible. It is posing a threat to our economy. It poses a threat to our national security. And I believe that the chief executive has a responsibility to protect this country."
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