The Looming Debt Ceiling Deadline: Can President Biden Use the 14th Amendment to Avert a Default?

President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy recently met for their second meeting in a week, but little progress was reported on raising the debt ceiling.[0] With a looming debt ceiling deadline and growing dissatisfaction among lawmakers, some Senate Democrats are circulating a letter urging President Biden to invoke the 14th Amendment to lift the debt ceiling and avert a default without an act of Congress. The 14th Amendment, a US civil war-era addition to the constitution, states that the validity of public debt “shall not be questioned”, potentially allowing Biden to override Congress on the grounds that their failure to raise the ceiling is unconstitutional.[1]

However, some Republican lawmakers, White House officials, and even Biden himself have expressed concerns with that route.[2] Earlier this month, McCarthy expressed his opposition to addressing the debt ceiling using the 14th amendment. Last week, Biden told reporters that he had been contemplating using the clause, but the issue was that it would have to go through the legal system.[2]

When the government spends more money or its revenue decreases, the US debt increases.[3] Debt has been a constant presence in the US throughout its history.[3] However, the increase in debt was primarily observed during the 1980s, following the significant tax reductions implemented by Ronald Reagan.[3] Due to the insufficient tax revenue, the government had to resort to borrowing more funds for expenditure.[4] Janet Yellen, the Secretary of Treasury, has issued a warning that the nation may exhaust its borrowing capacity by June 1, providing negotiators with limited time to come to a consensus.[5]

In the coming weeks, if McCarthy and Biden manage to come to an agreement on how to address the debt limit, it would necessitate backing from all the groups within the House Republican Conference. It also will require some Democratic votes.[6] Little headway has been made by the White House and Congress in their discussions to prevent an unparalleled and potentially catastrophic nationwide default that may happen in early June.[7] President Joe Biden has already given in on the most basic issue of contention by engaging in discussions with Republicans regarding the debt ceiling.

Biden has been adamant that he will not accept a debt ceiling deal that includes spending cuts, leaving Congress in a stalemate with a default looming as soon as June 1.[8] Despite this, certain liberal legislators have cautioned the president against compromising on Democratic objectives in order to increase the debt limit.[8] On Thursday, McCarthy expressed a fresh sense of positivity regarding the discussions on the debt limit with the White House. He informed the press that he envisions a viable route towards reaching a resolution.[9] And I think we have a structure now and everybody’s working hard.”

The United States risks could run out of money to pay its bills if Congress is not able to reach an agreement on the debt ceiling.[10] As per the cautionary remarks made by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the possibility of its occurrence looms as early as June 1, and could potentially lead to severe and widespread ramifications for the American populace, encompassing those reliant on benefit payments, small business owners, and hopeful homebuyers.[10] If Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling, the government can’t borrow and might not be able to pay its bills on time, like bond interest.[11] That’s called a default, and it’s never happened before on this scale (though the US got close in 2011).[11] It would likely tip the US into a recession and shake the global economy.[11]

In conclusion, the US government is facing a critical decision on how to deal with the debt ceiling amid a potential looming default. The 14th Amendment provides a potential solution for President Biden to lift the debt ceiling without Congress, but it remains a contentious issue among lawmakers and officials. As the deadlines approach, negotiations between the parties continue, but it remains to be seen whether they can reach a compromise in time to avoid a financially devastating and unprecedented default.

0. “If he were president, Hawley says, he’d be tempted to raise debt ceiling without Congress” Kansas City Star, 17 May. 2023,

1. “Morning Rundown: Biden urged to use 14th Amendment, DeSantis education bills, Harry and Meghan's ‘car chase'” NBC News, 18 May. 2023,

2. “Senate Dems to Biden: Bypass GOP, get rid of the debt ceiling forever” Business Insider, 17 May. 2023,

3. “What is the US debt ceiling and what will happen if it is not raised?” The Guardian, 30 Apr. 2023,

4. “How the debt ceiling battle may affect your 401(k)” USA TODAY, 17 May. 2023,

5. “Everything To Know About The Debt Ceiling, Possible Default On Treasury Bonds And Whether A Shutdown Will Happen” Forbes, 18 May. 2023,

6. “The debt ceiling could come down to a small group of House Republicans”, 16 May. 2023,

7. “Biden Has Already Caved on the Debt Ceiling” The Atlantic, 16 May. 2023,

8. “AOC: Biden compromising with GOP on debt ceiling is ‘profoundly destructive'” Business Insider, 16 May. 2023,

9. “White House negotiators signal concessions on work requirements in debt talks” POLITICO, 18 May. 2023,

10. “Are you worried about the US defaulting on its debt?” CNN, 17 May. 2023,

11. “Democrats again push for debt ceiling repeal amid deadline stalemate” The Washington Post, 18 May. 2023,

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