14th Amendment considered as debt deadline looms

The 14th Amendment of the Constitution has a provision that says, "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."

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner read the 14th Amendment during an interview last May. He wasn't trying to make an argument for using the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling, he was just making a point that refusing to do so would be foolish in the extreme.

But as the August 2 deadline nears, ABC7 political analyst Bruce Cain says the idea is getting more attention.

"I think it's come up from the ashes into a realistic possibility in the last 24-48 hours," Cain said.

Weeks ago, the president dismissed the idea of using the 14th Amendment to raise the debt limit on his own, but now that statement is being second guessed.

"People are now taking the president's view and taking it apart and saying, 'Well, wait a minute, he probably had more of a political reason than a constitutional reason for saying that,'" Cain said.

It's possible that when the president dismissed the idea it was because he really wanted to negotiate a big debt reduction deal with the House Republicans.

At UC Berkeley law expert Jesse Choper has also weighed in on the topic.

"I think it's last ditch," he said.

Choper says the president's right on the 14th Amendment; it's not a good legal argument for raising the debt ceiling. And he thinks something else will surely be adopted.

"It's clear the that leaders of both parties know that this is a crisis and want to do something about it, so they will, they'll do something," Choper said.

If they don't make the August 2 deadline, on August 3, $22 billion is due to pay Social Security benefits for 29 million Americans. The next day, $60 billion in treasury bonds come due and on August 15 another $25 billion in interest on the debt will be due.

In an address Monday night, the president warned that if the debt limit isn't raised interest rates could climb for everyone and he again called for cuts in spending and eliminating tax cuts for the nation's wealthiest.

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