The Seductive Appeal of the 14th Amendment

The liberal drumbeat for the President to circumvent the Congress and Article 1 Section 8 of the United States Constitution. Katrina Vanden Heuval of the Nation, a well known left-wing magazine, was given center of the page exposure on the editorial page of the Washington Post today. Her column predicted the end of war as we know it if the debt limit is not raised. Read it here. Vanden Heuval predicts a global economic calamity if the Democrats don’t get their way and the Republicans don’t give in on every issue under discussion. Could Barack Obama try to use Section 4 of the 14th Amendment to eliminate those pesky Republicans from the National Debt battle. Here’s what Section 4 says. You be the judge if this situation is covered or does the original Article 1 Section 8 prevail.

14th Amendment Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void. Here are the first two lines of Article 1 Section 8: The Congress shall have power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States; To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

Let’s put the 14th Amendment in its proper context. The 14th Amendment was adopted on July 9, 1868 as one of the Reconstruction Amendments. It consisted of five sections. It was the amendment that was used to make all of the slaves into citizens. It also set the standards for voting and prohibited former Confederates from voting or holding office. The Due Process Clause has been used by the courts for areas that the framers in the Congress at the time could not anticipated. It has been used by the courts to apply most of the Bill of Rights to the states. The Equal Protection Clause has been stretched by the courts to apply to vast areas of rights. It was the basis of Brown v Board of Education. Section 4 confirmed the legitimacy of all United States public debt legislated by the Congress. It also confirmed that neither the United States nor any state would pay for the loss of slaves or debts that had been incurred by the Confederacy. For example, several English and French banks had lent money to the South during the war.  In Perry v. United States (1935), the Supreme Court ruled that under Section 4 voiding a United States government bond “went beyond the congressional power”.  Section 5 gave Congress the power to enforce the laws created by the amendment. No President has ever tried to circumvent the Constitutional powers of the Congress as often and as blatantly as Barack Obama. If he indeed instructs Secretary Timothy Geithner to continue funding the debt payments and the government what will happen? Would Geithner refuse the illegal order and resign as Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus on October 20, 1973 during the Watergate scandal? The smart money is betting that the House would vote for the immediate impeachment of the President and send it to the Senate for the trial. Where would that leave the country? In the middle of a constitutional crisis and under severe financial constraints. Let’s hope that it doesn’t come to that. Let’s hope that lefties like Katrina Vanden Heuval are ignored by calmer heads in the White House.


  1. Donna L. Carlaw

    Wouldn’t that be a kind of coup on the part of the President? Would he go that far?

    • Rick

      Yes, it is unconstitutional. The 14th Amendment was passed to prevent the Confederate States to pay creditors after the war was ended not to raise the debt ceiling. I would hope that if he tried it that the House would immediately pass a bill of impeachment.

  2. Philip Tarnofsky

    Use the 14th Admendment or end up loss it!!!!!

    Call the Republican Bluff, If they want to try and shut down the government, let them!!

    “We the People” are watching and we are not as stupid as the Corporation and the Rich think!!

    President Obama needs to wait till the last minute and use the 14th Admendent!

    This rough housing by the Republicans need to end at once!

    • Rick

      If Obama uses the 14th Amendment (whose original intent was to prohibit reparations to Southern states and slave holders for losses that they incurred) he will clearly violate Article 1 Section 8. If that were to occur the House would move for immediate impeachment, leaving it to the Senate to convict. His use of the 14th Amendment erroneously would end the Republic as we know it would be over. The USA would be no better than a banana republic with a dictator at the helm. The rule of law would be done. I feel that we would see a complete repudiation of our national debt with secession in the Southeast, Upper Midwest and West leaving a rump state. It’s not the way to go. Think of a black hole. We would be looking into the abyss.