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The debt limit default doomsday clock and 14th amendment

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The world already has one Doomsday Clock. In 1947, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists established the Doomsday Clock on nuclear holocaust – how close we were to the end of days because of the existence and threat of using nuclear weapons.

In 2007, the scientists included a climate change equation in their tripwire

With nuclear weapons proliferating, the threat of a use of tactical nukes by Russia overhanging the no-end-in-sight war in Ukraine, and global warming not under control, the Doomsday Clock is now at 90 seconds before the witching hour of midnight, “The closest,” the atomic scientists say, “to global catastrophe it has ever been.”

There is now another Doomsday Clock in existence.

Last week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen declared that the United States would run out of money to pay its bills on June 1, triggering a first-ever default by the biggest economic power in the world. In Senate hearings last week, one of the most respected economists, Mark Zandi, declared that “June 8 is the X-date when Treasury can’t pay all the bills on time.”  

The Debt Limit Default Doomsday Clock lock is now set at 30 days from today.

Every expert authority agrees that a default will cause catastrophic effects in the United States and worldwide.

In the US, millions of jobs lost, a recession and even higher interest rates.  Across the globe, higher borrowing costs and depressed markets for goods and exports.  We could relive the global Covid crash.

Biden's scoop
U.S. President Joe Biden takes questions as he announces his budget proposal for fiscal year 2023, during remarks in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 28, 2022. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

President Biden has called the four principal congressional leaders – House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, House Democratic leader Hakim Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell – to meet on Tuesday with the Doomsday Clock ticking.

As discussed last week, Biden wants a clean extension of the debt limit, and not have it held hostage to trillions of dollars in budget cuts that House Republicans are seeking.  The House Republicans have refused a debt limit extension without the massive savaging of Biden’s spending and tax plans – effectively seeking repeal of most of what Biden enacted into law in his first two years in office.

This looks like a head-on collision that will not be averted.

When Trump was president, the Republicans voted 3 times to increase the debt limit to accommodate over $7 trillion in Trump debt increases because of his spending and tax cuts.

But today, there no Republican votes like that for Biden.

Three things to watch for in this week’s meeting:

  • Can they agree on a short-term extension of the debt limit?

With Congress in session for only 8 more days during the next month, and with Biden due in Australia on May 24 for the Quad meeting, can they at least agree on a simple short-term debt limit extension to allow the parties to work together to find a solution?  A breather in the range of 60 days.  That would show goodwill and an intent to work this out.

  • Second, watch Mitch McConnell.  

Often when Congress and the White House are stuck on budget issues, the answer lies in procedural fixes – not radical legislation. In the last great debt limit crisis in 2011, McConnell crafted a complicated procedural mechanism to raise the debt limit.  It allowed President Obama to raise the debt limit, then allowed Congress to vote to disapprove of Obama’s raising the debt limit, and then Obama could exercise his constitutional authority to veto any such congressional disapproval of the debt limit increase.  The Republicans got their vote against raising the debt limit and Obama could ensure the maintenance of the full faith and credit of the United States.

But that was then. Right now, McConnell is in lock step with McCarthy, and is saying that the Senate Republicans are behind the Speaker. A deal will be closer if we see McConnell visibly working to bring McCarthy and Biden together.  

  • Third, watch for growing signs that Biden will move to end this crisis by invoking the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution.  

A growing number of experts believe the President has the authority, under the 14th amendment, to act unilaterally and ensure there is no default.  The 14th Amendment, enacted after the Civil War, states:

“[T]he validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

Proponents of using this authority say that Biden can do this on his own and permanently retire the debt limit.

This was seriously considered in the 2011 crisis. My book with Bryan Marshall, The Committee, recounts a discussion in the House Democratic Caucus on this issue:  

“[House Majority Leader Rep. Steny] Hoyer said that come Tuesday night the President may feel he has to invoke constitutional authority on the debt ceiling … He has not told us this but I have to believe it’s an option on the table … But a lot of lenders may believe that there is still a large cloud over such an order that it may not help much with respect to the markets.
[House Majority Whip Rep. James] Clyburn then said he wanted to say something about the 14th Amendment.  He said that he believes the President will sign a 30 day extension if that is what he is presented with.  But what the President should do (and he said he has told the White House this) if he gets a short term extension is to veto it and, with the very same pen, sign an Executive Order.” 

Biden’s going to the 14th Amendment would mean that he does not believe he can work with McCarthy, who himself is held hostage by the scorched-earth Trump Republicans in his caucus, and that no deal is possible. 

The downside risk of invoking the 14th Amendment is that it has never been used before.  There are no previous controlling precedents on this issue.

Such an action by the President would immediately be challenged and would be on a fast track to the Supreme Court – a court, dominated by conservatives, that has been against him on abortion, guns, voting rights, and many other issues.

WASHINGTON, DC – FEBRUARY 19: Visitors pay respects to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as he lies in repose in the Great Hall at the U.S. Supreme Court on February 19, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Leigh Vogel/WireImage)

In addition, some House Republicans would immediately move to impeach Biden for abuse of power for invoking the 14th Amendment.

America could be in a new crisis with both the Legislative and Judicial branches of the government moving against the Executive. Indeed, Secretary Yellen said on Sunday:

“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.”

Biden was directly asked about using the 14th Amendment in an interview on MSNBC on Friday night. 

Biden said: “I have not gotten there yet.”

Biden did not say no. 

What his words do say is that Biden is working to get there, and that he could get there if the choice is between a doomsday calamity of untold consequence for all Americans, and that with every other door slammed shut in his face by the Republicans in Congress, he is exercising his constitutional authority under the 14th amendment to avert an unprecedented catastrophe of their making. 

That would be one hell of a presidential address to the nation and the world from the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.

We will see all these cards played in the days ahead.

Bruce Wolpe is a Ticker News US political contributor. He’s a Senior Fellow at the US Studies Centre and has worked with Democrats in Congress during President Barack Obama's first term, and on the staff of Prime Minister Julia Gillard. He has also served as the former PM's chief of staff.

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China conducts ‘punishment’ war games near Taiwan

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China initiated military ‘punishment’ exercises in the waters surrounding Taiwan in response to the newly inaugurated President Lai Ching-te.

These drills come amid escalating tensions in the region, with Beijing asserting its sovereignty over Taiwan, denouncing the inauguration of President Lai Ching-te and labelling this one of several “separatist acts”, as reported by Reuters.

These military manoeuvres are seen as a show of force and a warning to Taiwan and its supporters against any moves perceived as challenging China’s territorial claims.

President Lai has repeatedly offered talks with China but has been rebuffed.

He says only Taiwan’s people can decide their future, and rejects Beijing’s sovereignty claims.

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Money

Apple Music’s controversial top 10 albums of all time

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Apple Music has released its highly anticipated “100 Best Albums of All Time” list, with the top 10 rankings causing a bittersweet symphony of destruction for some music lovers.

The list was curated by a panel of experts and based on various factors including cultural impact, critical acclaim, and commercial success, with the aim to celebrate the most influential and timeless albums across genres.

As reported by the official Apple Music Newsroom blog post, the top ten best albums of all time are the following:

10. Lemonade (2016), Beyoncé

9. Nevermind (1991), Nirvana 

8. Back to Black (2006), Amy Winehouse

7. good kid, m.A.A.d city (2012), Kendrick Lamar

6. Songs in the Key of Life (1976), Stevie Wonder

5. Blonde (2016), Frank Ocean

4. Purple Rain (1984), Prince & The Revolution

3. Abbey Road (1969), The Beatles

2. Thriller (1982), Michael Jackson

1. The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998), Lauryn Hill

In other news, Apple recently became the first company to hit a $3 trillion stock market value, before falling just below that milestone, as reported by Reuters.

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Leaders

Essential daily protein needs for better health

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Protein is a fundamental macronutrient essential for various bodily functions, including muscle repair, enzyme production, and immune system support.

Daily protein requirements can vary significantly based on factors such as activity levels, age, and gender.

To help unpack this topic, Kate Save from BeFitFood joins to share her key insights. #featured

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