Peter Roff
U.S. News & World Report
July 7, 2011

President Barack Obama, we have been told many times, is a constitutional scholar. His administration’s latest plan for dealing with the debt ceiling is, therefore, an occasion for him to have his credentials reviewed.

According to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who, one presumes, is speaking for Obama, the public debt clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gives the president the authority to deal with the approaching debt ceiling by ignoring it.

Here’s what the amendment actually says:

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.

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