As the debate over the debt ceiling rages on, there has been more talk of Obama using an executive order to raise the debt ceiling. The constitutional basis for this is, of course, the 14th amendment and (presumably) the executive power of the president.
The constitution states that “the validity of the public debt … shall not be questioned”, which would seem to indicate that the debt ceiling would need to be raised on pain of violating the constitution.
However, a case can be made that raising the debt ceiling is distinct from not questioning the validity of the public debt. To use an analogy, consider the matter of personal debt. A person could, it seems, decide that she will not give herself permission to go further into debt while at the same time fulfilling her current financial obligations. Likewise, the congress could decide that the debt ceiling should not be raised while still accepting the validity of the debt. This actually has considerable appeal-after all, going ever more into debt is hardly a wise financial move.
There is, of course, a rather serious problem with that approach: apparently we cannot pay our debts without going more into debt. Going back to the analogy, the nation seems to be like an individual who cannot pay her debts except by taking out more loans. While this is hardly a desirable solution, it might be the only viable solution-at least in the very short term. As a long term solution it is certainly not viable.