Robert Reich: Advice To Biden On How To Handle House Republicans’ Demands For Raising Debt Ceiling – OpEd


If House Republicans refuse to raise the limit on the amount of money America may repay on what it owes — the deceptively named “debt limit” — they might force the United States to default, pushing interest rates into the stratosphere and shaking the world economy. 

President Biden rightfully says that raising the so-called debt ceiling should not be negotiable. After all, Democrats joined Republicans during the Trump administration to raise it three times, even as Trump and the Republicans enacted a major tax cut for big corporations and the wealthy that caused the nation’s debt to soar.

Yet now, Kevin McCarthy and his band of Republican radicals are demanding that in return for their agreement to raise the debt ceiling, Biden and Democrats make drastic cuts in programs Americans rely on — in everything from from public safety to health care to education.

My advice to Joe Biden: Ignore McCarthy and the Republican radicals. 

Mr. President, your oath to uphold the Constitution takes precedence. As the supreme law of the land, the Constitution has greater weight than the debt ceiling.

Section 4 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution states that “The validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.”

A debt ceiling that prevents the federal government from honoring its existing financial commitments violates the Constitution.

So, if House Republicans refuse to raise the debt ceiling, you are obligated by the U.S. Constitution and your oath of office to ignore the debt ceiling and continue to pay the debts of the United States.

Should they wish, let the radical Republicans take you to court. 

Even the Republican radicals on the Supreme Court will likely support you. No “originalist” interpretation of the Constitution could read that document differently. 

The Constitution makes it clear that Congress’s power to borrow money does not include the power to default on such borrowing.

The original intent of the drafters of the Constitution in 1787 was to give Congress the power to tax and borrow to pay debts and to provide for the common defense and public welfare. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 30, the power to tax and borrow was established to ensure payment of debt or to prevent a default.

The “Second Founders” who amended the Constitution after the Civil War explicitly forbade Congress, or anyone, from repudiating or defaulting on the debt.

The Republicans want to lure you into a cynical game, Mr. President. The nation needs you to play hardball by ignoring them.

Robert Reich

Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies, and writes at Reich served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fifteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "The Common Good," which is available in bookstores now. He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, "Inequality For All." He's co-creator of the Netflix original documentary "Saving Capitalism," which is streaming now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *