Just over a week away from U.S. House Republicans potentially forcing an economically devastating default by refusing to raise the debt ceiling, Sen. Bernie Sanders advised for President Joe Biden to take urgent unilateral action by invoking the 14th Amendment.

“The willingness of Republicans to hold the world’s economy hostage to their Draconian and cruel demands has made it extremely difficult to enact a bipartisan budget deal at this time,” Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote in a Fox News op-ed. “So where do we go from here?”

“In my view, there is only one option,” he argued, explaining that Biden ” has the authority and the responsibility” to prevent a default under the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says in part that “the validity of the public debt of the United States… shall not be questioned.”

“This is a constitutional guarantee that the U.S. will always pay all its debts, period,” Sanders said, adding:

This is not a radical idea. Making sure that the United States continues to pay its bills regardless of whether the statutory increase in the debt ceiling is raised or not is an idea that has been supported by Republicans and Democrats. Back in 2016, then-President Donald Trump was correct when he said: “This is the United States government. First of all, you never have to default because you print the money.” Using the 14th Amendment would allow the United States to continue to pay its bills on time and without delay, prevent an economic catastrophe, and prevent huge cuts to healthcare, education, childcare, affordable housing, nutrition assistance, and the needs of our veterans. It must be exercised.

Americans are already living with “unprecedented wealth and income inequality,” corporations raking in huge profits from jacking up prices, and the world’s highest prescription drug costs, Sanders noted. Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers are plotting more tax cuts for the rich and demanding additional military spending—despite the hundreds of billions of dollars the U.S. already pours into the Pentagon and recent revelations about private military contractors’ price gouging.

Sanders is among a growing number of progressive lawmakers and legal scholars who have urged Biden to reject the GOP’s push for massive cuts.

“The hypocrisy of Republicans in Washington is truly breathtaking,” the senator charged, emphasizing that the GOP’s proposed tax breaks for the wealthy and boosted military spending would collectively increase the deficit they claim to care about by trillions of dollars.

“While defaulting on our nation’s debt would be a disaster so would enacting the budget Republicans passed in the House in April,” Sanders asserted. In the op-ed, he also detailed some estimated impacts from cuts to nonmilitary discretionary spending in the GOP’s so-called Limit, Save, Grow Act:

  • Deep and sweeping budget cuts… would push 790,000 Americans out of their jobs and push our economy toward a recession.
  • Up to 21 million Americans could lose Medicaid, ripping away the healthcare they need.
  • 80,000 jobs would be cut at the Department of Veterans Affairs alone and millions of veterans would be forced to wait much longer for the care and benefits they need.
  • 1.2 million women, infants, and children would not receive the nutrition they need to stay healthy through the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.
  • Nutrition services, such as Meals on Wheels, would be cut for more than 1 million low-income seniors.
  • 640,000 families would lose access to rental assistance and more than 430,000 low-income families would be evicted from their homes.
  • 200,000 children would be thrown off Head Start and 180,000 kids would lose access to childcare.
  • 2 million Americans would lose access to healthcare services through community health centers.

Sanders is among a growing number of progressive lawmakers and legal scholars who have urged Biden to reject the GOP’s push for “massive cuts on the needs of working people, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the poor,” and pointed to the 14th Amendment.

The head of the American Federation of Government Employees joined in Tuesday with a letter to the White House—which came as U.S. District Judge Richard Stearns held a conference for a case involving the 14th Amendment that the National Association of Government Employees filed earlier this month against Biden and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

Stearns, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, ordered the U.S. Department of Justice to file a document that lays out the DOJ’s views of Biden’s authority relating to the public debt by May 30 and scheduled a hearing for May 31, the eve of the so-called X-date, or when Yellen warns the government could run out of money to pay its bills.

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