In an interview with Senator Bernie Sanders on his eponymous show Thursday night, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper encouraged Sanders to expound on his belief that President Biden should invoke the 14th Amendment to bypass Congress in the debt ceiling negotiation. Despite the questionable constitutionality of such a proposal and Biden's rejection of it as an option, CNN continued to promote the 14th Amendment as a possible solution.
Cooper invited Sanders to explain the practicalities of invoking the 14th Amendment. Sander responded:
“Well, I think if the Republicans are prepared to hold the entire world economy hostage and say, ‘Hey, Mr. President, you've got no alternative but to make massive cuts in programs for the vulnerable, but we have no alternative.’ Well, the President does have an alternative. As you've indicated, the 14th Amendment is pretty clear. The validity of paying off our national debt is not questioned. That's the 14th amendment. I think he should invoke it. What that would mean, in practical terms, I believe, it's never been done before, is that we would continue to pay our bills.”
“In practical terms” such action would require the President to exercise authority only granted to Congress. True, the 14th Amendment insists America’s debt must be paid, but Section 8 of the Constitution clearly states that Congress alone is responsible for that payment: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.”
While defaulting on the debt would violate the 14th Amendment, President Biden’s use of that amendment would violate Section 8 of the Constitution. It remains Congress’s responsibility to pass a deal and pay off the United States’ debt, and a transferal of that responsibility would upset the government’s balance of power.
Cooper mentioned this viewpoint by asking Sanders: “Does the -- you know, there, there are Democrats who believe that invoking that, essentially, is sort of absolving Congress of what their responsibilities are and that it should remain in Congress. What about that argument?”
Sanders asserted, “It's an argument, and I'm not here to tell you that I think the 14th Amendment is a wonderful solution. It's about all that we have left. It is a better solution than the Republican approach, which says, and their original proposal was a 10-year program proposal, which would have made massive cuts for the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor, if that's the alternative, the 14th Amendment looks pretty good.”
CNN left Sander’s claims unquestioned and unrefuted, implying their validity, and continued to treat the 14th Amendment as a solution. Viewers of Anderson Cooper 360 witnessed a one-sided, illegitimate proposition portrayed as the only justifiable solution to debt talks.
CNN’s pushing of the 14th Amendment as away to avoid negotiating with the GOP was made possible because of a sponsorship from Care.com. Their contact information is linked.
The Transcript is below, click "expand" to read.
CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360
8:20 p.m. Eastern
ANDERSON COOPER: Joining us now, Vermont Independent Senator, Bernie Sanders, who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and he's a member of the Budget Committee. Senator Sanders, appreciate you being with us.
A., have you heard anything about tonight about a deal along those lines? And if so, how does it sound to you?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (VT-I): Well, it's only what I read in The New York Times, it may be right, it may be wrong. But Anderson, I want to say this, the idea that the Republicans are holding hostage the entire world economy unless they get what they want has been an outrageous display of extremist politics, and it really is unacceptable
And the second point that we have to appreciate is that right now in America, you've got a middle class which is shrinking, you've got 60 percent of our people living paycheck-to-paycheck, childcare system in disarray, health care system collapsing, housing all over the country; people can't afford housing. You don't cut programs that working people desperately need.
What you do, do and what has to be done is demand that the wealthiest people in this country who are doing phenomenally well start paying their fair share of taxes. You have to demand that corporate interest for receiving record-breaking profits start paying their fair share of taxes.
You have to start cutting military spending, when we are spending more than the next 10 nations combined, mass cost overruns in the military. There are ways that you can cut government spending without doing it on the backs of some of the most vulnerable people in this country.
COOPER: A lot of those things though, particularly like military spending, as you know, Republicans have drawn a line on that. Where would you -- where is the negotiation from if you were running these negotiations? What, what is the give you’d be willing to give –
SANDERS: Well, Anderson, it's not good enough for them to say, “Oh, we got huge campaign contributions from billionaires. We don't want to tax them. Oh, we love the military industrial complex, we don't want to cut military spending, off the table.” Well, it's not off the table.
What should be off the table are children in America where we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country, that should be off the table; the needs of elderly people who are struggling to pay for their prescription drugs, that should be off the table
You know, what we could do, if we paid the same prices for prescription drugs as they do in Europe, that's what Medicare paid, we would save a trillion dollars over a ten-year – ten-year period.
Do the Republicans have the guts to take on the pharmaceutical industry? I don't think so. So, it's not what they want, it is what the American people want and I think what I'm talking about is precisely what ordinary Americans want.
COOPER: You've called for President Biden to invoke the 14th Amendment, which as you know, says, quote, " The validity of the public debt of the United States shall not be questioned." How would that play out in practical terms? Why do you think that is the way to go?
SANDERS: Well, I think if the Republicans are prepared to hold the entire world economy hostage and say, “Hey, Mr. President, you've got no alternative but to make massive cuts in programs for the vulnerable, but we have no alternative.” Well, the President does have an alternative.
As you've indicated, the 14th Amendment is pretty clear. The validity of paying off our national debt is not questioned. That's the 14th amendment. I think he should invoke it. What that would mean, in practical terms, I believe, it's never been done before, is that we would continue to pay our bills.
I suspect it would be challenged in the courts very, very quickly. I think the courts do not want to see the world economy crumble, and I think it would be sustained.
COOPER: Does the -- you know, there, there are Democrats who believe that invoking that essentially is sort of absolving Congress of what their responsibilities are and that it should remain in Congress. What about that argument?
SANDERS: It's an argument, and I'm not here to tell you that I think the 14th Amendment is a wonderful solution. It's about all that we have left. It is a better solution than the Republican approach, which says, and their original proposal was a 10-year program proposal, which would have made massive cuts for the elderly, the children, the sick and the poor, if that's the alternative, the 14th Amendment looks pretty good. But I'm not here to tell you that that's a great option.
The option is that you do what we've always done throughout history is you raise the debt ceiling, you do not default, you don't threaten to default. And then you'll have an argument about the budget. That's what you do in a democratic society, not hold the world economy hostage, which is what the Republicans are doing.
COOPER: What is extraordinary about the way the Republicans are doing it is, it is in such stark contrast to how they behaved under the former president in terms of the debt ceiling.
SANDERS: Absolutely. They've raised the debt ceiling, if I recall correctly, three times under Trump and by the way, we raised, we-we raised our national debt by something like a trillion dollars over that period.
But it's not just Trump, we have done it with Republicans, we've done it with Democrats. That is what you do, and let us be clear everybody should know this, this is not a budget issue. We're not arguing here what we should be spending next year.
It is simply paying the bills that Republicans voted for last year and previous years. We're paying off our debt. And when you're the largest economy in the world, that is what you do.
COOPER: If you make a deal now, Democrats could revisit your budget priorities if and when they win back control of the House, or I guess from the Republican perspective, if and when they went back to the White House. Would that be a better path than default?
SANDERS: Well, default is a terrible path. It will cause global anarchy. But the alternatives are also very, very bad. Again, what I think is you have a normal budget process. Republicans want to cut, I want to make investments in our children and health care and education. Let's argue it out. But the other thing, Anderson, that worries me very much is if Republicans get away with holding the economy hostage, this sets a precedent for years to come.
You talk about in the future, then the normal budget process that we go through, we have committees, we argue and all that stuff. It's gone, and people say, “Okay, hey, budget ceiling is coming. We're going to go through this again.” That is a pretty bad way to develop budgets.
COOPER: Senator Bernie Sanders, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you.
SANDERS: Thank you.