By Alicia M. Cohn - 07/19/11 12:53 PM EDT
Former President Clinton said Monday that he’d use the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling if he were still in charge.
Clinton said he would not hesitate to invoke the constitutional option “if it came to that” and a deal proved impossible to reach with Congress. The former president made the comments to The National Memo on Monday evening.
Clinton said he would “force the courts to stop me” by interpreting 14th Amendment to allow the president to bypass Congress to raise the debt ceiling in order to avoid a government default.
According to Clinton, lifting the debt ceiling “is necessary to pay for appropriations already made” by Congress.
“I think the Constitution is clear, and I think this idea that the Congress gets to vote twice on whether to pay for [expenditures] it has appropriated is crazy.”
Clinton told The National Memo that Republican leaders he battled with in the House never used the debt ceiling as a weapon, unlike the current Congress.
“I knew they were thinking about it,” he said.
According to Clinton, then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) backed down because the president would have cast the GOP position as “refusing to pay for the expenses they had voted for” in previous administrations.
“The reason that raising the debt limit is so unpopular is that people think you’re voting to keep [increasing] deficit spending, instead of voting to honor obligations that were already incurred,” he said.
Clinton thinks that Republicans and Democrats will ultimately reach an agreement to raise the debt ceiling by the Treasury Department’s Aug. 2 deadline. “It looks to me like they’re going to make an agreement, and that’s smart,” he said.