Government Employees Union Sues Yellen, Biden Over ‘Unconstitutional’ Debt Limit Law
Portside Date:
Author: Zach Schonfeld
Date of source:
The Hill

The National Association of Government Employees (NAGE) filed a lawsuit to block enforcement of a law that sets the nation’s debt limit, arguing it is unconstitutional as a political divide over raising the borrowing cap comes to a head.

The lawsuit contends that, if the debt limit is reached, President Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen would be forced to decide which payments to prioritize, violating the separation of powers by taking over Congress’s spending authority.

The Debt Limit Statute is unconstitutional because it puts the President in a quandary to exercise discretion to continue borrowing to pay for the programs which Congress has heretofore duly authorized and for which Congress has appropriated funds or to stop borrowing and to determine which of these programs the President, and not the Congress, will suspend, curtail, or cancel altogether,” the complaint states.

Yellen has said that the U.S. could default on its debt as early as June 1 if the borrowing limit is not raised.

President Biden will meet with Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the other three top congressional leaders Tuesday at the White House to discuss the debt ceiling, but a deal still appears far off.

NAGE represents nearly 75,000 federal employees and asserts that its members are at imminent risk of layoff or furlough once the limit is reached.

“Unless and until the Debt Limit Statute is amended or revised to allow Congress to determine the priority of payments among specific programs once the limit is reached, members of Plaintiff NAGE will suffer irreparable injury from layoffs, furloughs, and loss of employment that are taken without any legitimate authority by the President,” the group wrote in its complaint.

Filed in Massachusetts’ federal trial court on Monday, the lawsuit further states that federal debts must be paid under the 14th Amendment, which states that the “validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.”

“The Fourteenth Amendment requires the President to meet obligations to the holders of federal debt,” the complaint states. “To do so, he must either borrow or find the necessary funds to do so from cancelling, suspending, or refusing to carry out spending already approved by Congress.”

Yellen on Sunday said invoking the 14th Amendment would create a “constitutional crisis.”

“Our priority is to make sure that Congress does its job. There is no way to protect our financial system and our economy other than Congress doing its job and raising the debt ceiling and enabling us to pay our bills. And we should not get to the point where we need to consider whether the president can go on issuing debt. This would be a constitutional crisis,” Yellen said on ABC’s “This Week.”

Source URL: