Christopher Valen

Christopher Valen
St. Paul, Minnesota, United States
August 11
I'm a mystery writer living in St. Paul, Minnesota. My first police procedural, "White Tombs", featuring St. Paul Homicide Detective John Santana, was released in March of 2008. "White Tombs" was selected by Reader Views as Best Mystery of 2008. "White Tombs" also won the Garcia Award for Best Fiction of 2008. My second John Santana novel, "The Black Minute", was released in September of 2009. The third Santana novel, "Bad Weeds Never Die," will be released in September 2011. You can see more on my website at I also write a blog about crime and justice entitled Probable Cause.


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JULY 31, 2011 9:45AM

The 14th Amendment Can Save Us

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constitution_quill_penAs the political sideshow continues in Washington, and the country careens toward the cliff and a disaster of historic proportions on August 2nd, it’s worth looking at Section 4 of the 14th amendment––possibly the last hope of saving the country from financial suicide brought about by the inmates now controlling the asylum.

Section 4 reads:

“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payments of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned.”

A majority of constitutional scholars have argued that the President does have some reserve power in the case of an absolute emergency. Most believe Congress’s current refusal to raise the debt ceiling falls within those parameters. Scholars point directly to the case that the framers of the Fourteenth Amendment were concerned about: preventing Southern members of Congress from canceling the debt the Union had accrued during the war and assuming the Southern debt.

In effect, Republican members of the House do not want to pay the debt incurred by previous Congresses unless they get specific cuts in domestic spending, particularly in programs Democrats hold dear.

The framers intent seems clear. Members of Congress cannot hold the full faith and credit of the U.S. government hostage to achieve other political ends, as was attempted by Southern members of Congress after the Civil War.

What we have in Washington today is an invented Constitutional crisis designed to achieve the policy goals of one particular party. The President should step up to the plate and declare that he is raising the debt ceiling and leave it to the courts to decide if he overstepped his authority.

Because even if the two parties and the President arrive at an agreement and avert a meltdown on Tuesday, there is little doubt that this threat will be used again and again to extract concessions.

The time to end this sideshow is now.

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I totally agree with you Christopher. If the debt ceiling limit deadline of August 2nd comes and goes without Congressional action, President Obama should invoke the 14th Amendment. The Far Right Republicans are holding this country hostage and the President must use extreme measures. He cannot allow us to default. I do not believe we should even have a debt limit. It is a relic from World War I. We are one of the few countries that has a debt limit. Excellent article Christopher.
Thanks for the comment, Howard. I agree that we shouldn't have a debt limit. As you state, few countries do. But good luck trying to get rid of it, now that certain members of Congress have found that it's an effective tool for holding the country, the President, and the other party hostage until they get their way.