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White House Rules Out 14th Amendment Option To Go Around Debt Ceiling

White House says Congress must act.

Charles Dharapak / AP

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney gestures as he briefs reporters at the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012.

WASHINGTON — White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the administration has ruled out one option to ignore the debt ceiling if lawmakers fail to raise the limit by the time the U.S. reaches its borrowing limit in February.

“This administration does not believe the 14th Amendment gives the president the power to ignore the debt ceiling,” Carney said, adding, “period.”

The theory stems from Section 4 of the 14th Amendment, which states, “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.”

It contends that the ceiling raises doubts about the credit of the U.S. government, and is therefore invalid, but Carney rejected that assertion on Thursday, saying Congress must act to pay for the bills it incurred.

The White House has demanded that Congress include a debt-ceiling increase as part of the fiscal cliff deal, while Speaker of the House John Boehner has said it would come with a “price tag.” Disagreement over the debt ceiling nearly caused the U.S. to default on its obligations last summer, sending consumer confidence and the markets tumbling.

President Obama said Wednesday that efforts to use the debt ceiling as a negotiating tool “is not a game that I will play.”

But Carney did not address one other long-shot bid to circumvent the borrowing limit: the trillion-dollar coin.

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