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Murphy: Biden using 14th Amendment for debt ceiling would ‘absolve Congress from being adults’

As a crucial June debt limit deadline looms without a deal in sight between the White House and congressional leaders, Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., on Sunday opposed the idea of President Joe Biden using the 14th Amendment to unilaterally avert a debt default.

In an interview on “Meet the Press,” NBC News’ Chuck Todd asked Murphy whether Biden should invoke the 14th Amendment to pay the country’s bills.

“I don’t want to give Joe Biden advice, but I think we should do our job,” Murphy said. “I think that’s a precedent to just absolve Congress from being adults.”

Amid the ongoing stalemate in Congress over raising the debt ceiling, Biden said last week that he was considering the 14th Amendment option to bypass the standoff. While he hasn’t ruled it out, TheAssociated Press reported that the president regards invoking the 14th Amendment — which has primarily been used to address citizenship and equality issues — as a problematic, untested legal strategy to ensure the nation is able to meet its financial obligations.

The amendment states that the “validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.” Previous administrations have considered invoking the 14th Amendment to raise the borrowing limit, but they never used it — including the Obama administration in which Biden served as vice president.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen opposed using the 14th Amendment last week, saying it would spark a “constitutional crisis.” Yellen has also warned that if Congress doesn’t act in time, the U.S. could start defaulting on its debts as early as June 1.

Biden met with congressional leaders last Tuesday at the Oval Office, but they failed to reach a deal on the impending default crisis. A follow-up meeting that was set for last Friday was postponed until this week, three sources told NBC News.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said that all parties agreed to the postponement and that it should not be read as a sign that talks are falling apart.

Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., a close McCarthy ally, told reporters Thursday: “You need a certain number of these performative meetings before you get to productive meetings.”

Biden told reporters Saturday that he believes the debt ceiling talks are “moving along.”

“It’s hard to tell,” Biden said. “They’re not, they’ve not reached the crunch point yet. But there is real discussions about some changes being made, but we’re not there yet.”

House Republicans have been pushing to attach spending cuts to a debt ceiling increase, while Democrats are reluctant to negotiate over whether to pay the country’s bills or default and have insisted on a clean debt limit hike.

They want Congress to negotiate over spending cuts that Republicans have demanded in the separate government funding process, which has a deadline of Sept. 30.

Murphy said Sunday that he is “pretty skeptical” that there will be an agreement on the debt ceiling in the next two weeks.

“Well, if we want to get serious about deficit reduction, then you have to put tax increases for billionaires and corporations on the table,” Murphy said.

“The only leader who says we are going to light the American economy on fire, if we can’t get an agreement in the next 10 to 14 days, is [House Speaker] Kevin McCarthy,” Murphy continued. “And that is deeply worrying to me.”

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