House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi shared her own idea Sunday on how to avoid a government shutdown should the Republican House and President Barack Obama find themselves unable to reach an agreement on raising the debt ceiling: invoke the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.
Pelosi started the discussion on CBS’ “Face the Nation” by saying she didn’t believe raising the debt ceiling should be tied to spending cuts.
“I don’t think these two things should be related,” Pelosi said.
“I think that we should subject every dollar we spend, every taxpayer dollar, whether it’s defense or domestic, to the harshest scrutiny. Is the taxpayer getting his or her dollar’s worth for that spending? But on the other hand, that is a judgment that we have to make as we make cuts to reduce spending — but having nothing to do with whether the full faith and credit of the United States of America should be placed in jeopardy.”
“The mere suggestion of it last summer resulted in our downgrading of our credit rating, just the suggestion of it. It didn’t even happen, and we were downgraded.”
“So I think that this is a really fundamental discussion, and while — if you say to somebody, ‘should we cut spending in order to reduce, to raise the debt ceiling’ —it sounds almost logical,” Pelosi continued. “But the two are totally separate. The debt ceiling is about spending that has already occurred.”
“You’re going to say, ‘I’m not going to pay my bills unless you stop buying stuff?’ Well, then stop buying stuff so you don’t have future bills. But right now we to pay the bills that have been incurred. And if you want to say cut spending for what we do next, fine. But don’t tie it to the debt ceiling.”
Pelosi’s solution to the impasse is for the president to — as some scholars have proposed — bypass Congress and invoke the 14th Amendment, which states that “[t]he validity of the public debt … shall not be questioned.”
“We always passed the debt ceiling [increases] when President Bush was president, as he was incurring these massive debts and the Republicans weren’t saying ‘boo’ at the time,” Pelosi said when asked why Congress can’t solve these problems before they become crises.
“There should be — this is a conversation where there should be no doubt. In fact, if I were president, I would use the 14th Amendment, which says that the United States will always be paying … I would just go do it, right. But the Congress has incurred much of this debt. So what are we saying? We incurred it, but we’re not going to pay it? If you want to say we’re not going to do it so much in the future, well, that’s another thing, but you can’t say I’m not paying my past debts.”