By Mike Lillis - 07/29/11 02:52 AM EDT
President Obama should invoke the 14th Amendment to hike the debt ceiling unilaterally as a last resort to prevent a government default, House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said Thursday.
“It’s arguably his power to do so,” Hoyer told MSNBC.
The remarks align Hoyer with a number of other House Democratic leaders, who are urging Obama to invoke the Constitution to prevent a government default if Congress fails to raise the debt limit before the Aug. 2 deadline.
“The Republicans, through their failure, have given you license to do whatever it takes to not let the American family go down into [the] abyss,” Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said Wednesday.
Obama so far has rejected the advice.
“I have talked to my lawyers,” he said last week. “They are not persuaded that that is a winning argument.”
Many observers of the debt-limit debate have said the 14th Amendment — which states that the “the validity of the public debt … shall not be questioned” — empowers the president to raise the debt ceiling without congressional input.
The push to raise the debt limit hit a brick wall Thursday when House GOP leaders failed to rally the 216 votes required to pass their version of the bill, which also slashes deficit spending by more than $900 billion over the next decade.
The House Rules Committee met Thursday night to tweak the bill and send it back to the floor Friday.
The Republicans downplayed the impasse as a hiccup on the road to fiscal sanity. But Democrats were quick to pounce, with Hoyer characterizing the Republicans as “a party that cannot even agree with itself.”
“The party of no,” Hoyer charged, “is saying no to their own deal.”