WASHINGTON -- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is breathing new life into a previously floated idea for resolving risky congressional fights over raising the government's borrowing limit: the 14th Amendment.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Pelosi said President Barack Obama may not like the idea, but she thinks it's within his constitutional authority to raise the debt ceiling himself, in the event Congress fails to do so. Her pitch comes as House Republicans seem to be preparing for a fight over the matter in the coming days.
"I think the 14th Amendment covers it," said Pelosi. "The president and I have a disagreement in that regard, I guess. I guess!"
She added, "I would never have taken that off the table."
The federal government is on track to run out of money on Oct. 17. Instead of putting forward a clean bill to raise its borrowing limit, House Republicans are signaling they plan to load up their bill with unrelated measures that Democrats oppose -- including delaying the implementation of health care reform. The debt limit, or the total amount of money the government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing obligations, currently stands at $16.7 trillion.
If Congress fails to reach a deal in time, the government will default on its debt obligations to other countries. Such a default could trigger another financial crisis in the U.S., with likely repercussions abroad.
In past fights over raising the debt ceiling -- when things got to the 11th hour -- Pelosi and other Democrats urged Obama to bypass Congress and raise the limit on his own. They point to Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which states: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payments of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”
Essentially, Democrats are arguing that since the "public debt" cannot be questioned, then the debt ceiling itself is unconstitutional.
Obama routinely brushes off the idea and says it's up to Congress to address the matter. Asked for a response to Pelosi's latest call, a White House aide pointed HuffPost to comments made earlier this year by White House Press Secretary Jay Carney reiterating that the president wouldn't take that route.
"Our position on the 14th Amendment has not changed," Carney said in January. "And let's be very clear -- Congress has the responsibility and the sole authority to raise the debt ceiling. And Congress must do its job."