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Debt ceiling negotiations continue as default deadline looms

US President Joe Biden speaks during a press conference following the G7 Leaders’ Summit in Hiroshima on May 21. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

In a news conference over the weekend, President Joe Biden addressed the possibility of using the 14th Amendment to continue US government borrowing in the absence of a deal, suggesting he has the power but not the time to utilize the unilateral action.

“I think we have the authority. The question is, could it be done and invoked in time that it could not – would not be appealed?” Biden asked, calling the question of whether an appeal could be solved before the default deadline “unresolved.”

Pressed by CNN to clarify whether he thought he could invoke the 14th Amendment as a serious and tangible option, the president made clear that maneuver would not be successful given the short window remaining.

“We have not come up with unilateral action that could succeed in a matter of two weeks or three weeks. That’s the issue. So it’s up to lawmakers. But my hope and intention is to resolve this problem,” he said.

Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana said Sunday a potential invocation of the 14th Amendment would be a “dodge.”

“The president needs to show leadership. ‘OK, House Republicans, American people, you’re concerned about spending, I will meet you there. As opposed to finding a dodge that tries to work its way around,” Cassidy said.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reiterated Sunday in an interview with NBC News that June 1 was a “hard deadline” for the US to raise the debt ceiling or risk defaulting on its obligations.

But Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a co-chair of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, said there may be some leeway.

“The June 1st date was probably, according to Secretary Yellen, the earliest possible date,” the Pennsylvania Republican told CBS News, adding that “we do have enough cash flow” to “pay the interest on our debt.”

“We’re going start to see the state tax revenues come in the second week of June, so I think we’re OK on that,” Fitzpatrick said.

More on the 14th Amendment: Some experts, including Laurence H. Tribe of Harvard Law School, point to Section 4 of the amendment as the basis of their argument that the president has the authority to order the nation’s debts be paid regardless of the debt limit Congress put in place more than 100 years ago.

“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,” reads the section, which refers to the debt incurred by the Union to fight the Civil War.

Lawmakers who crafted the amendment are very strongly saying that once the US borrows money, it has to pay it back, said Garrett Epps, a constitutional law professor at the University of Oregon. The section was designed to remove debt payments from potential post-war partisan bickering between the North and South, but it also applies to the wide divide between Democrats and Republicans today.

“The federal government is required to pay the debt on time in full,” said Epps, who has long supported using this option in the event Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling.

Keep reading about the amendment and how it factors into the debt ceiling debate here.

CNN’s Tami Luhby contributed reporting in this post.

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