Jonathan Chait

Obama Again Does Not Rule Out The Constitutional Option

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[Guest post by Matthew Zeitlin]

During President Obama’s Twitter Town Hall event this afternoon, he was asked by Twitter user _RenegadeNerd_  “Mr. President, will you issue an executive order to raise the debt ceiling pursuant to section 4 of the 14th amendment?”

In response, Obama said “I don't think we should even get to the constitutional issue.”

 What’s important here is that this is the second time that Obama has been asked about the constitutionality of the debt ceiling and refused to give answer one way or another. In his press conference last week, Chuck Todd asked Obama about the constitutionality of the War Powers Act, the debt limit and whether or not “marriage is a civil right.” Obama then discussed Libya, discrimination against gays and said nothing about the debt ceiling.

In light of Senate Democrats talking about the possible unconstitutionality of the debt limit, Nancy Pelosi inviting Bruce Bartlett to a Democratic Steering and Policy Committee Hearing,  Secretary Geithner reading from the constitution, and Obama pointedly refusing to rule out the constitutional option, it seems like the Democratic side of the debate is, at the very least, not preemptively excluding the only negotiating stance they can take that compares in strength to the debt ceiling denial we’re seeing among some House Republicans.

 When I talked to Garrett Epps for my piece about the debt ceiling, he described the constitutional option as “like when you go to the poker game and put your gun on the table.” At the very least, Obama is not throwing the gun out the window.

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