Fox News host Mark Levin dismantled President Joe Biden’s plan to invoke the 14th Amendment if he cannot reach a debt ceiling agreement with House Republicans.
Levin, who worked in the Reagan Justice Department, did a quick review on his program “Life, Liberty & Levin” Sunday about powers granted by the Constitution to Congress and the president in relation to these matters.
First, he cited Article I, Section 8, Clause 1, which provides, “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense…”
“This is a primary core duty of the Congress, and specifically the House of Representatives,” Levin noted.
Meanwhile, Article II, Section 3 requires the president to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” including those related to the nation’s finances.
A reporter asked Biden over the weekend at the G7 summit in Japan if he’s considering invoking the 14th Amendment if he cannot reach an agreement with House Republicans.
“I’m looking at the 14th Amendment, as to whether or not we have the authority. I think we have the authority,” Biden said.
“The question is: Could it be done and invoked in time that it could not — would not be appealed and, as a consequence, pass the date in question and still default on the debt. That’s a question that I think is unresolved,” he added.
Levin called such an interpretation of the 14th Amendment “preposterous,” pointing out the provision was passed in the immediate aftermath of the Civil War for a very specific purpose.
The 14th Amendment, 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.”
“So what was the point of this section?” Levin asked. “To clean up the finances of the United States of America and determine as a general matter who would be paid and who wouldn’t be paid after and as a result of the Civil War. It has nothing to do with the full faith and credit of the United States today.”
He elaborated that the amendment’s purpose was to say that all expenses incurred by the Union to put down the Confederate states’ rebellion would be paid, but any expenses racked up by the Confederacy would not.
George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley reached a similar conclusion as Levin.
“The drafters of this amendment did not want Congress to simply dismiss its obligations to pay off the Union’s debts from the Civil War. Although the amendment is not limited to those debts, it has nothing to do with debt ceilings set by Congress,” he wrote in a Saturday opinion piece for The Hill.
“Default, after all, is not a denial of the validity of debt, but rather a refusal or failure to pay debts in time despite their validity,” Turley added.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board contended that under the 14th Amendment the Biden administration has a positive duty to pay the nation’s outstanding debt, but he was not granted the authority to bypass Congress to accrue new debt.
“This means the Treasury cannot repudiate debt held by the public as issued in Treasury bonds and notes. In practical terms this means Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen must prioritize debt repayment once statutory federal outlays exceed federal revenue,” they wrote. “In other words, she and Mr. Biden can’t willfully default even for a time without violating the 14th Amendment.”
“What the 14th Amendment doesn’t allow is the claim by many progressives that the President can issue new debt without the consent of Congress,” the board further explained.
“Merely because Congress has approved new spending doesn’t mean the President can issue new debt on his own authority to finance it.”
The board went on to note that Treasury has more than enough revenue coming to finance the debt.
“Federal tax receipts in March were $313 billion and interest payments were $67 billion, according to Treasury’s monthly report on revenue and outlays. In April receipts were $639 billion and interest was $62 billion,” the editors wrote.
“It would be the height of fiscal irresponsibility if Treasury failed to use that cash to meet U.S. contractual debt obligations. Mr. Biden and Ms. Yellen would also be violating the law.”
Last month, the GOP-controlled House passed the Limit, Save, Grow Act.
The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Republicans’ plan would save $4.8 trillion in federal spending over the next decade.
The bill suspends the nation’s debt ceiling through March 2024 or until the debt increases by $1.5 trillion, whichever comes first, in exchange for setting fiscal year 2024 discretionary federal spending at fiscal year 2022 levels.
It also sets a 1 percent growth cap on federal spending over the next decade and includes a work requirement for some who receive welfare payments.
President Biden wants to spend MORE money than the federal government did at the height of the pandemic.
American taxpayers just cannot afford to keep borrowing money from China. pic.twitter.com/yBNCLaSUmG
— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) May 22, 2023