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What If The Treasury Department Ignored The Debt Ceiling

By Matthew Yglesias  

"What If The Treasury Department Ignored The Debt Ceiling"

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I’ve seen some remarks to the effect that the statutory debt ceiling may be unconstitutional. I think the better point is Jonathan Zasloff’s, namely that there doesn’t seem to me to be any legal remedy at anyone’s disposal if the Treasury Department wants to keep selling debt and financial markets want to keep buying it:

But if the administration takes the position that it must continue to borrow to comply with the Fourteenth Amendment, who would stop it? Put another way, who would have standing to sue? Taxpayers clearly would not. Individual members of Congress? No: the Supreme Court’s 1997 decision in Raines v. Byrd would seem to foreclose that. Congress as a whole? Perhaps; but what would it require for Congress as a whole to bring the lawsuit? A joint resolution would be blocked by Senate Democrats. That leaves the House to bring the lawsuit, and one could easily argue that one house would not have standing any more than individual members of Congress would.

Or to look at it another way, you might think to yourself that the extraordinary measures Treasury is currently taking to skirt the restrictions of the debt ceiling are themselves illegal. But who’s empowered to draw the line here? Nobody seems to have standing to sue, and on top of that it seems like a “political question.”

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