The Significance Of The Constitutional Option

Katrina Vanden Heuvel points out that having the “14th Amendment option” available as part of the toolkit for dealing with the debt ceiling standoff could restore some much-needed balance to the current game of chicken:

President Obama should commit to exercising this obligation — as a last resort. And he should commit publicly, as soon as possible.

Doing so will give him the leverage he lacks in the debt-ceiling negotiations. Right now, Republicans’ willingness to let the economy default, consequences be damned, gives them enormous leverage. But presumably, if a deal is not reached by the deadline, and the president is forced to exercise his constitutional obligation, Republicans will get nothing at all. Not the trillion dollars in cuts already agreed to. Not the additional trillion in cuts they are seeking. The threat, alone, of invoking the 14th Amendment defuses the bomb Republicans have strapped to the hostage.

That makes sense to me. Ultimately, to get a bargain there has to be some reason to prefer a bargain to not having a bargain. The White House would clearly prefer a deal on the long-term deficit to trying to invoke a novel constitutional doctrine. But it seems like House Republicans might also plausibly prefer a deal to watching the president invoke said doctrine. In that case, you get a deal. But absent some kind of viable White House “Plan B,” then it’s difficult for the House GOP to agree to anything.