Treasury Responds to Tribe

The U.S. Department of the Treasury General Counsel George Madison has sent the following letter to the NYT in response to Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe’s op-ed on the debt limit.

Contrary to Professor Laurence Tribe’s assertion (Op-Ed, July 8), Secretary Geithner has never argued that the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution allows the President to disregard the statutory debt limit. As Professor Tribe notes, the Constitution explicitly places the borrowing authority with Congress, not the President.

The Secretary has cited the 14th Amendment’s command that “[t]he validity of the public debt of the United States… shall not be questioned” in support of his strong conviction that Congress has an obligation to ensure we are able to honor the obligations of the United States. Like every previous Secretary of the Treasury who has confronted the question, Secretary Geithner has always viewed the debt limit as a binding legal constraint that can only be raised by Congress.

This would seem to indicate that GC Madison is unconvinced by those who argue the President could borrow additional funds unilaterally in order to avoid defaulting on existing debt.