Last month, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner suggested that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional because of Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which states that “the validity of the public debt of the United States…shall not be questioned.” If the Obama administration were to embrace this view, the country could avoid default in the event that the debt ceiling is not raised by the Aug. 2 deadline.
Republicans, who would lose an opportunity to inflict major budget cuts if the debt ceiling is declared unconstitutional, have been highly critical of the idea. Yesterday, Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel reported that Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC) said it would be “an impeachable act” if President Obama declares the debt ceiling is unconstitutional.
ThinkProgress spoke with one of Scott’s colleagues, Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX), today about the matter. Olson told us that others in the GOP caucus are also discussing impeachment and that Scott is “not a lonely voice” on the issue:
KEYES: Congressman Tim Scott of South Carolina yesterday in a town hall said if President Obama were to just ignore the debt ceiling, then he might be favoring bringing up articles of impeachment. Is that something that you’ve heard discussed much among your colleagues?
OLSON: A little bit. Right now, we’re focused on negotiations. We’re optimistic here. We hope the president will work with us. We’re very clear on our positions from our leadership all the way down to the most junior of the freshmen members. No increase in the debt limit without at least $2.2 trillion in cuts and savings. Again, not getting it through tax increases.
FANG: So Congressman Scott, is he just a lonely voice or are there a large number of people who are talking about this?
OLSON: He’s not a lonely voice. All of us out there, we’re getting closer to a place where we’ve never gone in our country’s history. So we’re all sort of learning as we go. We’ve never gotten to the point where we’ve defaulted, potentially, on our debt. So we’re looking at other options out there because this is new ground for all of us.
Olson did not reveal which specific members supported impeachment, though he made it clear that Scott was not alone and that it was a move the House GOP Caucus was considering.
It’s worth noting that this is not the first time House Republicans have threatened to impeach President Obama. In March, Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ) called for impeachment if the president didn’t reverse course on his opposition to the Defense of Marriage Act. Last year, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) hinted at impeaching the president if he didn’t do more to stop illegal immigration. Impeachment was even floated by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) in an attempt to force President Obama to release his birth certificate proving he was born in the United States.
The Constitution only allows for impeachment in cases of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”