Defend the Constitution against debt-ceiling hostage-taking

14 mins read

On May 1, 2023, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Speaker McCarthy that “After reviewing recent federal tax receipts, our best estimate is that we will be unable to continue to satisfy all of the government’s obligations by early June, and potentially as early as June 1, if Congress does not raise or suspend the debt limit before that time.”  This month also happens to have little time for negotiations. The House of Representatives is set to be in session for only 12 days in May, while the Senate is in session for only 15 days. President Biden is also expected to be out of the country for visits to Japan and Australia. 

On May 3, the White House issued a warning that threatening a debt default would cost jobs and increase unemployment and that a prolonged default could cost 8,000,000 jobs, increase unemployment by an additional five percent, and risk a major stock market crash. 

On May 4, the Senate Budget Committee held a hearing on the cruel details of the MAGA “Default on America” plan, which we reviewed in detail in our April 26 Call to Action

On Monday, May 8, the National Association of Government Employees (NAGE) sued Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and President Biden to block enforcement of the debt ceiling law as unconstitutional. NAGE contends that it violates the separation of powers by forcing Executive Branch officials to decide which payments to prioritize when we reach the debt ceiling, thus taking over the spending authority which our constitution has given to Congress. 

President Biden has some options to prevent a catastrophic scenario in case the Republicans continue their threats. These hardball executive actions are necessary to fight the hostage-takers in Congress.

  • Enforce the 14th Amendment, as the Constitution preempts any law, instead of defaulting on payments.
  • Delay the debt ceiling financial catastrophe by selling higher-yield premium bonds to investors. 
  • If necessary, circumvent the debt-ceiling law by minting trillion-dollar coins.

We believe President Biden should demonstrate bold leadership on behalf of the people by prioritizing the 14th Amendment and the constitutional separation of powers, since the debt ceiling is only breached for spending already obligated by prior Congressional decisions. We like the script for him that constitutional law professor Lawrence Tribe suggested on Monday:  “My duty faithfully to execute the laws extends to all the spending laws Congress has enacted, laws that bind whoever sits in this office — laws that Congress enacted without worrying about the statute capping the amount we can borrow.”

Tell President Biden it’s time to play hardball through executive action that prioritizes our constitution and protects our dedicated federal employees.

Celebrating the return of Senator Feinstein to work

Californians, like all Americans, need full representation in the U.S. Senate, and our slim Democratic majority needs every vote they can get to advance a progressive agenda in the face of MAGA Republican obstructionism.

These things had been hampered since late February by the prolonged absence of Sen. Dianne Feinstein for medical reasons. She was hospitalized back in February, and had been recovering at home through all of March. As her absence went on for more than two months, it began to interfere with President Biden’s efforts to rebalance the federal courts; his more diverse, more progressive nominees, opposed by MAGA Republicans, started getting stuck in the Committee on the Judiciary. A bill to overturn President Biden’s emissions regulations passed; Senator Feinstein could have tied it. We also need her as a member of the Committee on Appropriations to help prevent MAGA Republicans from forcing the country into default.

Since her suggestion of temporarily replacing her on Judiciary with another Democrat was blocked by the MAGA Republicans, and wouldn’t have helped with Appropriations anyway, we signed onto a statewide letter from grassroots groups to the Senator through her staff, thanking her for her decades of service as our senator (and, in our case, as our mayor and supervisor before that), and asking her to resign so that Governor Newsom could appoint an interim senator to do this important, time-sensitive work and Senator Feinstein could focus on her health.

Fortunately, as of yesterday, the senator has recovered enough to be able to return to DC. The Committee on the Judiciary immediately began referring the previously blocked nominees to the full Senate, and we look forward to Senator Feinstein being part of the Democratic line against the MAGA default as it swiftly approaches.

We express our well wishes to the senator for her continuing recovery, along with our appreciation for her commitment to continuing to serve all Californians and all Americans, and for the important work she’ll be doing alongside Senator Padilla in the months to come.

If you’re 50 years or older, you can get vaccinated against shingles.

Keep up your protection: Get another bivalent booster against COVID-19!

The protection you get from vaccination gradually wanes over time, so it’s important to regularly get boosters to maintain a high level of protection against COVID-19.

People who are 65 and older, or of any age who are immunocompromised, can now receive an additional bivalent booster following after their previous dose, per updated CDC guidance. Everyone else, from six years on up, can get a bivalent booster if they haven’t already. The California Department of Public Health has detailed, up-to-date information on when you can get your next booster.

The updated guidance also simplifies the schedule to remove the use of the outdated original monovalent (single-strain) vaccines. Now the bivalent vaccines are the only mRNA vaccines recommended in the United States. If you or your child only recently started the monovalent series, you’ll finish it with a bivalent dose.

The bivalent vaccines, introduced last year, provide better protection against more recent strains of the virus that causes COVID-19, particularly the Omicron strains. Keep up your protection by keeping up to date on your vaccines.

Some COVID-19 tests have been recalled: check yours today!

Last week, the FDA published a recall notice for certain Pilot brand at-home COVID-19 tests. These tests come with a vial of fluid which, in the recalled units, is contaminated with harmful bacteria. If your tests have one of the lot numbers on the FDA’s list, throw them out in your landfill trash. Do not pour the liquid down the drain.

Continue to support Pajaro farm workers through long recovery

Locally, Pajaro residents still need our help after the city residents had to evacuate in the middle of the night when the Pajaro River levee broke on March 11 and flooded their homes and fields.

While FEMA aid is critical and will be helpful, it’s not straightforward or convenient, nor does it include a significant portion of those living in Pajaro, because they are undocumented. Indeed, the aid is piecemeal. The livelihood of all the farm workers remains at great risk

To continue to help those who face a long and difficult recovery, many community groups are providing cash, clothing, food, and cleanup supplies to the victims of this disaster, and they could still use your financial support:

If you’re interested in participating in activities like drafting letters to our Members of Congress and developing our strategy for influencing them, the Indivisible SF Federal Working Group is where it happens.

Indivisible SF Federal Working Group: Thursday, May 11, 7:30–9 PM. Planning meeting where we discuss strategy to influence our Members of Congress and the Biden administration to enact a progressive agenda. Meeting starts promptly at 7:30 PM. All are welcome. Register here!

SFPUC Community Power Update: Thursday, May 11, 10–11 AM, O’Shaughnessy Conference Room at 525 Golden Gate Ave. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) invites you to its next Community Power Update meeting to share updates about its programs and services with community partners and gather feedback. RSVP to attend in person on Eventbrite, or sign up to join in on Zoom.

San Francisco Down Payment Assistance Loan Program (DALP) Info Session: Thursday, May 11, 6:00 PM. Learn about the city’s down payment assistance program for first-time low- to middle-income homebuyers. Applications for this program from the mayor’s housing office close in mid-July. Register on Zoom and find out more in the Mission Local article announcing the session and on the program’s website.

Budget Town Hall with Assemblymember Phil Ting: Friday, May 12, 12:30–2 PM, Ronald M. George State Office Complex at 455 Golden Gate Ave. Come hear a presentation about the California state budget, then give feedback that’ll help shape our next priorities. RSVP here.

District 2 Town Hall with City Attorney David Chiu: Monday, May 15, 6–7 PM, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco at 3200 California St. City Attorney Chiu, District 2 Supervisor Catherine Stefani, and SFPD Northern Station Captain Derrick Jackson will provide district updates and answer questions from the audience. RSVP here.

SURJ SF Dialogue: Accountability Through Collective Action: Sunday, June 4, Noon–1:30 PM. SURJ SF Dialogues are participatory events designed for, but not exclusive to, white people committed to anti-racism who want to examine issues of identity, privilege, racism, and white supremacy. Individuals at all stages of their anti-racist journey are invited to join us. This Dialogue will explore what building accountability relationships with BIPOC organizations engaged in racial justice work looks like and why it is so important. Register here.

About this week’s photo

If you’ve seen our newsletter posts on Twitter and Facebook, you might have noticed that we include a photo or graphic with each issue.

Today’s image is a photo of the two statues of the Peace Monument in front of the Capitol dome used in a WSJ article about the debt-ceiling fight in the House. The photo was taken by J. Scott Applewhite for Associated Press.

DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.

Since the January 2017, more than 4,000 San Franciscans have united as Indivisible SF to march in the Women's Marches, protest the Muslim Ban, meet regularly with our Members of Congress, and make thousands of phone calls to their offices to pressure them to do everything in their power to counter the policies and politics of Trumpism. There is much work in progress and many actions to come.

Members of Indivisible SF are defined by our action and find solidarity in our shared opposition to Trump and Trumpism. Each of us explicitly reserves our individual stances on specific issues for other forums as we believe resisting Trump is more important than any single issue. We adhere to a Code of Conduct that welcomes and respects everybody.

Members of Indivisible SF come from all kinds of backgrounds and political persuasions. Some of us are first-time activists and others have been at this for decades. We are citizens and non-citizens. Most importantly, we are all patriots that want the best for our country and are willing to work for it.

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