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.”
Pelosi blamed House Republicans for bottling up legislation, and for failing to follow the example she set as the Democratic speaker.
“When President Bush was president and I was speaker, we worked cooperatively to do the biggest energy bill in history,” she said. “We did the TARP — the Republicans walked away from their own president — we did a wonderful stimulus with rebates all the way down to refundability for poor people. We worked together on a number of things. We didn’t agree on the wars and we had our differences, but we worked together with the president.”
“When this president came in and we were in the majority, we got things done. When this president was still there, and the Republicans came in, they said the most important thing they could do was to make sure he did not succeed. And that’s really unfortunate.”
“But also, I keep saying to my Republican friends, ‘Take back your party,’” Pelosi continued.
“This isn’t the Grand Old Party that did so many things for America, that commanded so much respect. We need a strong Republican Party. This is really the over-the-edge crowd. That’s the way I see it. That doesn’t mean there aren’t some in there who still had some respect for the role of — the public role of clean air, clean water, food safety, public safety, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the rest. But the fact is that it is dominated by an element that are anti-government ideologues, and are committed to not cooperating with this president. And it’s hard to understand.”
“I think this new class coming in invigorates, refreshes the Congress and says let’s just have a fresh — let’s sweep away what happened the last two years,” Pelosi concluded. “Let’s go back to another time where we had respect for each other’s opinion and respect for people who sent us here.”