Republicans in the Senate have made it clear that they will not help the Democrats raise the debt ceiling. However, Democrats could go it alone — the Senate is evenly divided between both parties, but Vice President Kamala Harris can break the tie in favor of her party.
All the Democrats have to do is attach the debt ceiling to another financial bill and pass it via reconciliation. However, Democrats are either unwilling or unable to get their act together to get the debt ceiling raised in a timely manner. Thus, House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi is floating the option of having President Joe Biden raise the debt ceiling on his own.
Alternatively, other Democrat politicians in the House have suggested that the Treasury Secretary, an unelected official, could raise the limit without permission from elected representatives — or even the President of the United States. In the latter case, the Senate would have to vote to stop the move with at least 51 senators and the president rejecting the move.
Rep. Pelosi’s argument that Congress does not necessarily have to give the executive branch permission to raise the debt ceiling is based on a clause in the Constitution that states that the “validity of the public debt of the United States…shall not be questioned”. It is known as the “public debt clause” and it’s not the first time that Democrats have tried to use it to their advantage.
Some Democrats urged former President Barack Obama to ditch Congress and raise the debt ceiling on his own as well, a move he declined to make. He argued that doing so would be outside of his authority as president. In this instance, he was right. A portion of the public debt clause mentioned above makes it crystal clear that the validity of the public debt that shall not be questioned must be authorized by law.
Furthermore, the Constitution also clearly states that only Congress has the power to “borrow money on the credit of the United States.” A unilateral move to raise the debt ceiling via executive action would likely be declared invalid by the Supreme Court, leaving the nation in danger of an unprecedented default.
Allowing a president to decide on his or her own how much money the United States can borrow is a dangerous notion as it gives a single person far too much power over the United States economy. If former President Trump had considered such a move, there would be an outcry. Liberals would viciously accuse him of trying to become a dictator by taking such executive action.
Naturally, the mainstream news media is almost silent about the possibility of Democrats ceding the power of the purse to the executive now that the president happens to be a Democrat.