The Huffington Post’s Jennifer Bendery reports that Vice President Biden told House Democrats that President Obama would have used the Fourteenth Amendment to prevent a catastrophic default if Congress failed to reach a debt ceiling deal:
This report is hearsay upon hearsay, so there is no way to be sure what Biden actually told the caucus. And the report is also surprising given the number of times that Obama claimed he did not have the authority to invoke the Constitution in order to lift the debt ceiling.
The GOP was able to force a one-sided deal for a very simple reason — they took the entire world’s economy hostage and left only a shred of doubt that they were foolish enough to shoot the hostage. Their game was to leave President Obama with no choice but to agree to their terms because he had no tools available to free their hostage.
If the reports about Biden’s statement are true, however, we now know that Obama believed that he did have a tool which, if nothing else, he could have threatened to invoke to scare the GOP into believing that if they pushed too hard they’d be left with nothing. Instead of doing so, Obama consistently stated that he believed the Constitution could not save America from the GOP’s hostage crisis.
There are all kinds of good reasons why invoking the Fourteenth Amendment should only have been done as a matter of last resort. Among other things, a cloud of legal uncertainty would have hung over any bonds issued under the constitutional option, forcing America to pay inflated interest rates in order to sell them. Nevertheless, President Obama was wrong to rhetorically take this option off the table at a time when the GOP’s entire negotiating strategy depended upon backing the nation into a corner.