Posted 3 years ago on Sept. 21, 2013, 8:02 a.m. EST by bensdad
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United States Constitution
Article XIV [ 1868 ] - Section 4.
The 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. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
Section 4 confirmed the legitimacy of all U.S. public debt appropriated by the Congress. It also confirmed that neither the United States nor any state would pay for the loss of slaves or debts that had been incurred by the Confederacy. For example, during the Civil War several British and French banks had lent large sums of money to the Confederacy to support its war against the Union. In Perry v. United States (1935), the Supreme Court ruled that under Section 4 voiding a United States bond "went beyond the congressional power." This ruling showed that congress could not constitutionally ignore American debt.
The debt-ceiling crisis in 2011 raised the question of what powers Section 4 gives to the President, an issue that remains unsettled.
Many legal scholars such as Garrett Epps, fiscal expert Bruce Bartlett and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, have argued that a debt ceiling may be unconstitutional and therefore void as long as it interferes with the duty of the government to pay interest on outstanding bonds and to make payments owed to pensioners (that is, Social Security recipients) in accordance with this article.
Legal analyst Jeffrey Rosen has argued that Section 4 gives the President unilateral authority to raise or ignore the national debt ceiling, and that if challenged the Supreme Court would likely rule in favor of expanded executive power or dismiss the case altogether for lack of standing.