The non-partisan Congressional Research Service has issued a new report saying that if Congress refuses to raise the government’s borrowing limit, the White House cannot do so unilaterally under the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
“It does not appear that the executive has the constitutional authority to borrow funds, even if they are for the express purpose of preventing a default on the debt,” said CRS, which is the non-partisan advisory research arm of Congress.
Some commenters have argued that the 14th Amendment means the government cannot suspend payments and that President Obama can act to keep funding government even without congressional authorization.
Clause four of the amendment, which was passed after the end of the Civil War, reads: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payments of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”
CRS’s experts said that language doesn’t convey any new powers on the president to circumvent Congress when it comes to borrowing or spending.
“There appears to be no basis in the legislative history, or arguably in the structure of the Constitution itself, that can support an executive power to borrow funds,” the research service said in the report, which was released to several congressional offices this week and was reviewed by The Washington Times.
Though some Democratic lawmakers have raised it as a possibility, the White House has been dismissive of using the 14th amendment as a work-around.