WASHINGTON -- The White House routinely rules out the idea of President Barack Obama invoking the Constitution to raise the debt ceiling in the event that Congress fails to do so. But minting a $1 trillion coin to avoid a debt default? Maybe.

White House press secretary Jay Carney didn't explicitly rule out that option during his Wednesday briefing. The idea, which has gained traction in recent days despite its absurdity, is that the government could mint a $1 trillion platinum coin and the Treasury Department could use it to cover the nation's debt obligations. The debt ceiling would no longer be an issue.

Carney was asked about the prospect of Obama using the accounting gimmick if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling by its mid-February deadline. While Carney certainly didn't endorse it, he didn't dismiss it with the same clarity that the White House does every time the 14th Amendment option comes up as a possible nuclear option.

"The option here is for Congress to pay its bills," Carney said repeatedly when asked about the prospect of Obama considering the $1 trillion coin approach. "There is no Plan B. There is no backup plan."

Pressed again later for a "yes" or "no" answer, Carney still wouldn't give one.

"I would refer you to Treasury for specifics of this question," he said. "I can tell you the president does not believe that there is a backup plan or a Plan B or an off-ramp. The only option here is for Congress to fulfill ... its responsibility and ensure the United States pays its bills."

To be sure, parsing Carney's comments is the ultimate exercise in splitting hairs. But as the country approaches its need to raise the debt ceiling, the political process has been reduced to such hair splitting.

While the $1 trillion coin approach may sound ridiculous, a mid-1990s law does give the Treasury Department the right to mint a coin made out of a tiny bit of platinum and stamp whatever denomination it wants on it.

WATCH:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.)

    U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) (L) participates in a reenacted swearing-in with his wife Cheryl Flake (C) and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol January 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)

    Vice President Joe Biden administers the Senate Oath to Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., accompanied by his wife Catherine and sons Rider and Owen, right, during a mock swearing in ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, as the 113th Congress officially began. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

  • Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii)

    U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) (L) participates in a reenacted swearing-in with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol January 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.)

    U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) (L) participates in a reenacted swearing-in with his wife Jill Donnelly and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol January 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)

    U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) (L) participates in a reenacted swearing-in with her husband Bruce Mann and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol January 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Sen. Angus King (I-Maine)

    U.S. Sen. Angus King (I-ME) (L) participates in a reenacted swearing-in with his wife Mary Herman and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol January 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)

    U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) (L) participates in a reenacted swearing-in with her husband Darwin Lange (C) and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol January 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.)

    Vice President Joe Biden administers the Senate Oath to Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., accompanied by her husband Bruce Fischer, during a mock swearing in ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, as the 113th Congress officially began. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

  • Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.)

    U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) (2nd L) participates in a reenacted swearing-in with his wife Julie Heinrich, sons Carter and Micah, and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol January 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images) <em><strong>CORRECTION:</strong> A previous version of this image mislabeled Sen. Heinrich's party affiliation. He is a Democrat.</em>

  • Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.)

    U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) (L) participates in a mock swearing-in with his mother Frances Scott and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol January 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

    U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) (L) participates in a reenacted swearing-in with his wife Heidi Nelson Cruz, daughters Caroline and Catherine, and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (R) in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol January 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.)

    U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) (L) participates in a reenacted swearing-in with his wife Anne Bright Holton and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol January 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.)

    WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 03: U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) (L) participates in a reenacted swearing-in with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol January 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

  • Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii)

    Vice President Joe Biden, right, re-enacts the swearing in of Sen. Brian Emanuel Schatz, D-Hawaii., left, as wife Linda Schatz, holds the bible and watches at center, during a ceremony in the Old Senate Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)