The U.S. Debt Ceiling Approaches: Will Biden Invoke the 14th Amendment?

As the United States approaches its debt ceiling, President Joe Biden is considering the use of the 14th Amendment to circumvent the issue. The 14th Amendment states that “the validity of the public debt, authorized by law…shall not be questioned,” which some legal scholars argue gives the Treasury Department the ability to keep borrowing money past the current $31.4 trillion debt limit that requires congressional approval to raise or lift.[0] At least 11 Senate Democrats and 66 members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are urging Biden to invoke this constitutional authority to raise the debt limit without going through Congress. However, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has warned that using the 14th Amendment could trigger a “constitutional crisis” and legal experts have warned that it would be unconstitutional for the U.S. to fail to make payments.[1]

The debt ceiling, which currently stands at $31.4 trillion, has been raised 78 times since 1960, under both Democratic and Republican presidents.[2] In the past, presidents and congressional leaders have reached deals to raise the country’s debt limit in give-and-take negotiations in which neither side got everything on its wish list.[3] However, this year, House Republicans are demanding steep spending cuts and a rollback of some of Biden’s legislative accomplishments in exchange for their votes to raise the debt ceiling.[4] [5]

The U.S. government hit its borrowing limit in January, and Yellen has warned that the country could run out of cash as early as June 1 if Biden and Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy are unable to reach a deal to raise the debt ceiling.[6] McCarthy and Biden have discussed the debt ceiling in a call, agreeing to meet in person to work toward a deal.[7] The media have criticized Biden for negotiating on the issue after he swore there would be no negotiations over the debt ceiling.[8]

The potential default on the country’s debt could have harmful effects across the financial system.[9] The U.S. is one of the few countries worldwide with a debt ceiling, and it is essential for the country to avoid a default.[9] While Democrats are urging Biden to use the 14th Amendment to raise the debt limit, legal experts and Yellen have warned against it, and negotiations between Biden and McCarthy continue.

0. “Congressional Democrats beg Biden to nullify their existence” The Hill, 20 May. 2023,

1. “US Chamber of Commerce argues invoking 14th Amendment would be as ‘economically calamitous' as a default” CNN, 19 May. 2023,

2. “Nine questions you may have about the debt ceiling” NPR, 15 May. 2023,

3. “Biden to Republicans: Abandon ‘Extreme Position’ on Government Spending” Voice of America – VOA News, 21 May. 2023,

4. “McCarthy says he'll meet with Biden after ‘productive' debt ceiling call” NBC News, 21 May. 2023,

5. “What to Know About the History of the Debt Ceiling” TIME, 18 May. 2023,

6. “Debt-Ceiling News: Biden to Talk With Speaker Kevin McCarthy” Bloomberg, 21 May. 2023,

7. “Biden, McCarthy Attempt to Revive Budget Talks as Debt Default Looms” The Wall Street Journal, 22 May. 2023,

8. “Democrats have side-stepped higher taxes in the debt-ceiling standoff” The Washington Post, 20 May. 2023,

9. “Charting the Rise of America's Debt Ceiling” Visual Capitalist, 17 May. 2023,

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