A former U.S. Department of Justice attorney says talk the Obama administration would use the 14th amendment to circumvent Congress is "absurd."
The so-called "14th amendment solution" depends on an interpretation of the amendment that would make it illegal for the federal government to default, The Hill reported Sunday.
Congress has until Aug. 2 to pass a funding bill to prevent the U.S. government from defaulting on its financial obligations. President Barack Obama and Republican leaders of Congress have so far failed to reach an agreement to keep the government from defaulting.
"It's so absurd," said attorney David B. Rivkin, who served in the department during the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. "It is an empty threat. Not even a threat, it is a legal impossibility. It's not just a question of opinion, it's a question of case law."
U.S. Rep. Tim Scott R-S.C., said it would be "an impeachable act," and Rivkin agreed.
"Any president who did something like this would be engaging in the most outrageous conduct of any president in … constitutional history. There's no doubt that this would be an impeachable offense," Rivkin said. "I don't think the White House would ever do this, but if you're presented with even the not-very-likely threat to do something outrageous, something to totally subvert our constitutional fabric, the proper response is one of push-back and outrage."
The "14th amendment solution" became an issue in July when Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner said threatening a default is "not a credible negotiating strategy" because of the 14th amendment.
About a week later, the Treasury Department released a response stating Geithner wasn't arguing the 14th amendment authorized Obama to raise the debt ceiling without congressional approval.
"The Constitution explicitly places the borrowing authority with Congress, not the president," Treasury Department General Counsel George W. Madison said.