The lawmaker who says Biden has a ‘constitutional command’ on debt

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With an assist from Nicholas Wu, Jordain Carney and Anthony Adragna

TICK, TOCK — There are just seven legislative days left (including today) on the schedule when both chambers in Congress are in session before June 1, which is the earliest the nation could default on its $31.4 trillion debt per Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.

While the four congressional leaders are meeting again with President Joe Biden to discuss the debt ceiling on Friday, they’re not any closer to a deal than they were at the start of the week. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters after Tuesday’s meeting that talks on the staff level will get underway “to try and negotiate that process” ahead of the next meeting.

One option floated by Biden: The president said after Tuesday’s meeting that he was “considering” the use of the 14th Amendment, which states that the public debt of the United States “shall not be questioned,” as a means to circumvent the debt ceiling standoff he currently finds himself in with House Republicans.

But even in floating such a move, the president also cast doubt on it, telling reporters that it would “have to be litigated and in the meantime without an extension it’d still end up in the same place.” Biden said he would look at the issue of invalidating the debt ceiling through the 14th Amendment “months down the road.”

Invoking the 14th Amendment to avoid defaulting on the nation’s debt would be a controversial and untested move. Still, it gets a (provisional) stamp of approval from one of the highest-profile constitutional lawyers in Congress, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), who added the caveat that it depends on exactly what Biden does to address debt.

“We have virtually no precedent under the validity of the public debt provision,” Raskin, an emeritus constitutional law professor at American Univeristy, said. “But look, the MAGA Republicans are putting [Speaker Kevin] McCarthy in a position, who is now putting Biden in a position where he’s going to be forced to choose between either violating the Constitution and violating the laws of the country which require him to pay the bondholders and pay the Social Security recipients, or he’s going to have to violate the debt limit statute.”

He added: “I think the main thing is that the President do everything in his power to try to dislodge the political stalemate. But if not, there is a pretty clear constitutional command there.”

Fun in the sun: Lawmakers are already bracing for canceled Memorial Day plans, whether with family or marching in a local parade. At the House Democratic Whip team meeting Tuesday night, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) told her colleagues to “get used to the idea of working Memorial Day.”

FIRST IN HUDDLE on immigration: Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) is working with Schumer on legislation to address the expected expiration of Title 42 immigration provisions on Thursday, multiple people familiar with the discussions told Huddle. This legislation is separate from with Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) proposed last week.

Speaking of the border, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) is floating the declaration of a state of emergency in Arizona as Title 42 winds down. He told Nicholas he believed it could help manage humanitarian needs with the sunsetting of the pandemic-era border policy used to rapidly expel migrants. He’s one of the first Democrats to explicitly call for the declaration.

“I think at this point, we should really put on the table an emergency declaration. I think that will actually do a lot of help for that area,” he said in an interview. Gallego added that after talking to mayors and nonprofits, he believed a declaration “could actually be more helpful to kind to deal with the situation that we’re seeing.”

Also: The House Rules Committee approved a rule very early this morning for the Republican border bill that’s expected to come to the floor Thursday. House GOP leadership agreed to make changes to the bill Tuesday, hoping to address concerns from a handful of members who considered opposing the legislation over E-Verify. E-Verify is a program that companies use to check the immigration status of their employees, and members worried language that made the program mandatory for all employers would have serious ramifications for the agriculture sector that relies on immigrant labor.

GOOD MORNING! Welcome to Huddle, the play-by-play guide to all things Capitol Hill, on this Wednesday, May 10, where we’re one day closer to the weekend.

DIFI WATCH — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) wasn’t at votes on Tuesday night but could make an appearance this week. She’s back in town after a monthslong absence due to treatment and recovery from shingles. We wouldn’t be surprised if she makes her return to the Senate at Thursday’s Judiciary Committee meeting.

TRUMP’S MIXED BAG — Republican lawmakers had a variety of responses to news that former President Donald Trump has been found liable of sexual abuse in a New York civil trial. Some stayed in Trump’s corner while others chose not to defend the former president — a stark contrast from the past. Some reactions from Tuesday night votes:

  • Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.): “I don’t know any of the facts of the case,” he said, declining to say whether it would concern him to support someone found liable of sexual battery. “It’s a New York jury, too,” Scott said.
  • Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), chair of the Senate GOP campaign arm, declined to weigh in on the merits of the decision. “It sounds like President Trump’s legal team will be appealing the decision,” he told reporters.
  • Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.): “You never like to hear that a former president has been found in a civil court guilty of those types of actions,” the South Dakota senator told reporters Tuesday. When asked if he could support somebody who’s been found liable for sexual battery, he said: “I would have a difficult time doing so.”
  • Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said: “I do think there’s a cumulative effect to just the constant drama and chaos that always seem to surround him. But, like I said, that doesn’t seem to impact his hardcore supporters. The question is, I guess, does it impact the people in the middle who are going to decide a national election?”

CUE THE SANTOS STAKEOUT — Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) could appear in court as soon as today on federal criminal charges which were first reported Tuesday but have not been made public. The New York Republican had already forfeited his committee assignments just weeks after taking office amid fabrications about his past and personal history and allegedly fraudulent business dealings. Santos did not cast votes on Tuesday night.

It is ironic that Santos, easily the most famous (well, infamous) member of the freshmen class, could miss the official 118th Congress photo in the House chamber due to his appearance at federal court in New York’s Eastern District.

Some candid reactions from his GOP colleagues:

  • Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.): “You’re the first person to ask me about this. I’ve always thought his constituents will deal with whatever issue”
  • Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.): “I’m surprised he made it as long as he did.”
  • Fellow first-term Rep. Nick LaLota (R-N.Y.): “These charges bring us one step closer to never having to talk about this lying loser ever again.”

INVESTIGATION WATCH — Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) is preparing to show his hand Wednesday after conducting a controversial months-long investigation into President Joe Biden and his family largely behind the scenes, Jordain reports.

Comer and other GOP members of his panel will hold a press conference at 9 a.m. to discuss their findings from several subpoenas for bank records. They are expected to focus on payments with links to foreign countries made to Biden family members and associates and will also lay out their next investigative steps. It is the first time Comer has had a press conference on his investigation since November and it will mark a litmus test for his ability to gain traction with his probe, after facing early skepticism from some GOP pundits. Comer has also criticized some in the media for downplaying his probe.

The White House, congressional Democrats and their outside allies are already gearing up to try to poke holes in Comer’s findings and accuse him of a political investigation after Republicans spent years ignoring ties between Trump family members and foreign governments.

Some angles we are watching for: Are Republicans able to provide a specific direct link to President Biden? Does Comer specify if he’s alleging actions that are potentially unethical vs. illegal or neither?

Also happening Wednesday: Today is also the deadline for the FBI to comply with Comer’s subpoena after he accused the bureau of having a document alleging a “criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Biden and a foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions.” (The allegation from Comer provided no details on the country allegedly involved, details of the “scheme” or how the whistleblower would have knowledge of the FBI document.)

NDAA DELAY (Part 2) — First the Senate and now the House – the fiscal 2024 defense policy bill is now held up in both chambers. The House Armed Services Committee postponed its NDAA markups — subcommittees this week, full committee on May 23 — indefinitely. Lee Hudson and Connor O’Brien had the scoop for Pros yesterday. Remember that last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee pushed its NDAA action from May 31-June 1 to mid-June over concerns about the debt limit.


Fine dining… Illinois Democrat Eric Sorensen showed off a classic staple of cheap eats.

Check your inbox… So far in 2023, 86 percent of House members have used the Congressional perk of sending official e-newsletters to constituents while only 66 percent of Senators have, per political scientist Lindsey Cormack, who’s always got fun facts on constituent newsletters.

You got it from your mama… If you haven’t sent your mom a card yet, the clock is ticking. But you have a chance in the Rayburn Foyer to check it off your to-do list. Hallmark and the Greeting Card Associations are hosting a Mother’s Day Greeting Card event on Capitol Hill where attendees can mail a free greeting card to their mothers.


Kari Lake to meet with senators as she inches closer to Senate bid, from Holly Otterbein

Senate GOP leaders watch debt limit collide with their coveted farm bill, from Meredith Lee Hill

Milo Yiannopoulos Caught in Marjorie Taylor Greene-Kanye West Campaign Cash Scandal, by The Daily Beast’s Roger Sollenberger


Jessica Weiner is now comms director for Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.). Formerly a senior adviser, she is now taking over for Buckley Carlson, who has also been promoted to Banks’ deputy chief of staff.

Seth Brasher is now director of external affairs for Radiance Technology. He previously was operations coordinator for Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.).

Sarah Newsome will be digital education manager for the Chief Executives Organization. She previously has been comms director for Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.)


The House convenes at 10 a.m. for morning hour debate and 12 p.m. for legislative business. First and last votes are expected at 1:30 p.m.

The Senate convenes at 10 a.m. and at 11:30 a.m. will vote on confirmation of Felice Gorordo to be U.S. alternate executive director of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and cloture on the nomination of Glenna Laureen Wright-Gallo to be assistant secretary of Education for special education and rehabilitative services.

At 2:30 p.m., if cloture is invoked, the Senate will vote on confirmation of Wright-Gallo and Colleen Joy Shogan to be archivist of the United States. At 5:30 p.m., the Senate will vote on confirmation of Geeta Rao Gupta to be ambassador at large for global women’s issues.


9 a.m. Comer, alongside Oversight Committee Republicans, hold a press conference on the investigation into the Biden Family. (HVC Studio A)

10 a.m. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.), Emmer, Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and other House Republicans hold post-meeting media availability. (RNC Lobby)

10:45 a.m. Democratic Caucus Chair Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.) and Vice-Chair Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) hold a post-meeting press conference. (HVC Studio A)

11:00 a.m. Reps. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) and Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) hold a press conference on the introduction of the Enhance Access to SNAP Act of 2023. (House Triangle)

11:30 a.m. Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) hold a press conference on Reforms to Security Classification. (S-325/SRTVG Studio)

12 p.m. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders hold a press conference to announce the introduction of the U.S. Citizenship Act of 2023. (HVC Studio A)

12:30 p.m. Reps. Ami Bera (D-Calif.), Kim Schrier (D-Wash.) and Raul Ruiz (D-Calif.) hold a press conference on restrictions on medicine and the impact on physicians and patient care. (House Triangle)

2 p.m. Senate Democratic and GOP leaders hold separate press conferences following closed door caucus lunches. (Ohio Clock Corridor)


TUESDAY’S WINNER: Joe Lowry correctly answered that there are 108 windows in the Capitol dome.

TODAY’S QUESTION from Joe: What phrase was the first tapped over a long distance line in Morse Code by inventor Samuel B. Morse from the first floor of the Capitol to Baltimore?

The first person to correctly guess gets a mention in the next edition of Huddle. Send your answers to [email protected]

GET HUDDLE emailed to your phone each morning.

Follow Katherine and Daniella on Twitter: @ktullymcmanus and @DaniellaMicaela