WASHINGTON -- Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Friday that invoking the Constitution's 14th Amendment, which states that federal debts "shall not be questioned," to continue paying government obligations is a strategy worth considering should a debt-ceiling deal remain elusive.
In late May, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner read directly from the 14th Amendment to a crowd of reporters, emphasizing the clause "shall not be questioned." And rank-and-file Senate Democrats are increasingly looking to the 14th Amendment as a way out of the debt-ceiling impasse, as HuffPost reported on Tuesday.
When asked about the Constitution's 14th Amendment during a conference call with reporters, Schumer, who leads Senate Democrats' communications effort, said, "It's certainly worth exploring."
But he warned the amendment would probably not come into play during the current debate over the government's congressionally imposed debt limit. "It needs a little more exploration and study," he said. "It's probably not ripe to pursue at this time, because it hasn't had that study and you wouldn't want to just go ahead and issue the debt and have one of the courts reverse it."
Legal scholars, however, argue that the courts couldn’t get involved because no party would have standing to sue. In order to have standing, a plaintiff needs to demonstrate that they have been harmed. Only Congress would have a plausible complaint, and the Senate would not agree to go along with such a suit.
Individual members of Congress, however, may be able to gain standing and challenge the president. But it is difficult to imagine that the current Supreme Court, one of the most pro-business in the past century, would hand down a ruling that dramatically harms Wall Street.
Schumer said that the next time the debt ceiling needs to be raised, the 14th Amendment option would get a close look. "It's something worth looking at for the next time around, but I don't think it's had enough fermentation -- examination, to employ at this time."
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