For the first time since Republicans began threatening not to raise the debt limit absent spending concessions from Democrats, the White House has left itself a tiny bit of wiggle room to use an unorthodox tool to avoid breaching the debt limit.
At his daily press briefing Wednesday, press secretary Jay Carney responded to a question about whether the White House has the power to order the minting of a large-denomination platinum coin which, upon deposit at the Federal Reserve, could be used to meet federal obligations after borrowing authority has lapsed.
“On Plan B, there is no backup plan,” Carney said. “It is Congress’ responsibility to pay the bills of the United States. This is not about future spending. We will have that debate and continue to have the debate about the budgets that we design and the path forward in deficit reduction. And the president’s principles in this matter are very clear. You know, there is no alternative to Congress raising the debt ceiling. It is its responsibility. Congress has to pay the bills of the United States.”
That may look like a thumbs down. But compare it to his absolute dismissal of the idea that the 14th Amendment empowers the executive branch to ignore the debt limit and continue to issue debt.
“[W]e don’t believe it provides the authority that some believe it does,” he said. “But the point here is because of a resistance to the reality that Congress has a responsibility to pay the bills that it has racked up, we shouldn’t be pursuing these kinds of options. Congress should simply do its job.”
That’s much more conclusive. We know that, after consulting counsel, President Obama foreclosed on using the 14th Amendment as a debt limit workaround. Reading the tea leaves, it doesn’t look like the administration has reached the same, if any, conclusion about the platinum coin option.
Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight, and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at email@example.com.