Former Democratic President Bill Clinton has come out swinging at Congress, telling The National Memo's Joe Conason that he would take decisive action if no debt deal is reached by the August 2 deadline. Clinton says that if he were in Obama's situation, he'd invoke the Fourteenth Amendment to raise America's debt ceiling "without hesitation, and force the courts to stop me."
Clinton, who came out strongly against Republicans in an exclusive interview with The National Memo on Monday, said:
"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.
[Raising the ceiling] is necessary to pay for appropriations already made...so you can’t say, ‘Well, we won the last election and we didn’t vote for some of that stuff, so we’re going to throw the whole country’s credit into arrears."
Clinton faced his own debt battles as president during two government shut downs. Back then, though, he didn't consider utilizing the Fourteenth Amendment, because the debt ceiling was not brought in as part of the overall debate. The National Memo has more:
According to Clinton, the Gingrich Republicans thought about that tactic [using the debt ceiling] before rejecting it -- and Treasury officials who served under Clinton commissioned legal research on the president’s power to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval. While some legal scholars believe the Fourteenth Amendment requires Congress to fund the debt that results from its appropriations, and therefore empowers the president to raise the debt ceiling, others vehemently disagree.
The American Spectator takes issue with Clinton's opinion on the matter, writing that the Fourteenth Amendment doe not call Congress to borrow monies whenever needed. Rather, the amendment instructs Congress to pay for what it spends:
Meaning it can choose to cut spending, raise taxes, or print more currency. Arguing as Clinton does would also license the president to print more currency in order to pay the bills, effectively running down the value of the dollar.
It's like saying that once you've maxed out all your credit cards, you have no choice but to transfer the balance to a new credit card.
Some say Clinton isn't the only prominent individual speaking out in support of unilateral use of the Fourteenth Amendment. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has also allegedly advocated its use. CNN Money has more:
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner has heightened the debate over the debt ceiling extension in recent weeks by implying that the President could simply push through an extension of the debt ceiling based on an interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution.
While some believe Geithner has been clear in advocating for the president's use of the Fourteenth Amendment, others -- including legal representation at the Treasury, itself -- claim this isn't the case. In a release published on July 8, 2011, a lawyer for the Treasure Department denied this allegation, writing:
Secretary Geithner has never argued that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows the President to disregard the statutory debt limit.
According to the Treasury's legal counsel, Geithner's words thus far on the matter have been intended to compel Congress to take action on the debt limit. President Obama has avoided direct questioning on the matter, though, making it difficult to conclude exactly where he stands and what he will do if a plan is not reached.
Despite Clinton's claims that Obama should invoke the Fourteenth Amendment if needed, he tells Conason that he believes the situation will be remedied by August 2. The former president says that it looks as though an agreement will be made, which he calls "smart."