By Mike Lillis - 07/31/11 02:04 AM EDT
The Democratic members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) urged President Obama on Saturday to sidestep Congress and hike the nation's $14.3 trillion debt limit on his own.
In a letter to the president, the lawmakers argue that he has "both the authority and a moral obligation" to invoke the Constitution's 14th Amendment "to avoid an economic catastrophe of historic proportions."
The lawmakers join a growing chorus of Democrats – including Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) and Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) – who have called on Obama to invoke the Constitution as a last resort to prevent a government default.
Supporters argue that the 14th Amendment – which says "the validity of the public debt … shall not be questioned" – empowers the president to act unilaterally.
Obama has all but ruled out that option.
"I have talked to my lawyers," he said at a town hall meeting last week. "They are not persuaded that that is a winning argument."
The CBC members disagree, arguing that it's his obligation "to do that which is necessary for the good of the country."
"Just as President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation at a time of emergency in our nation's history to free those who were enslaved during the Civil War, today you face a looming calamity that in some respects is just as grave," they wrote.
Only one CBC member – Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) – did not endorse the letter.