Some leading Republicans are starting to openly talk of once against holding the debt ceiling hostage in order to get Democrats to agree to painful cuts. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) even suggested using the debt ceiling as “leverage” to force Democrats to agree to cuts in Medicare and Social Security Benefits.
House Democrat Peter Welch (D-VT) has had enough with these hostage tactics. This week, he began circulating a letter among his colleagues that asks President Obama to use every means at his disposal — including invoking the 14th amendment — to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling in the event that Republicans once again try to hold it hostage. Here’s a full copy of the letter:
Dear Mr. President,
As you know, Speaker Boehner has explicitly stated that he will withhold support for raising the debt ceiling as leverage to win concessions in fiscal negotiations with the White House. This is the same tactic he used in August 2011 at great expense to the American economy. The result was an additional $18.9 billion in interest over 10 years and America’s first ever credit downgrade.
We fully support your view that Congress should not “play this game.” Threatening default on our nation’s debt is an economic weapon of mass destruction that will have immediate and catastrophic consequences for the economy as well as America’s standing in the world.
In the event the Speaker follows through on his reckless threat, we would support your use of any authority available to you, including the 14th amendment, to preserve America’s full faith and credit and prevent further damage to our economy.
Earlier, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), too, threatened to use the debt ceiling to force President Obama to cut Medicare benefits. In the event that Republicans should follow through with these threats, Obama should very seriously consider the Welch letter’s proposal.
UPDATE: Here’s the relevant text of the 14th Amendment: “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, [...] shall not be questioned.”