“The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law … shall not be questioned,” reads the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The upcoming fight to raise the national debt ceiling has again pushed the clause into the spotlight. Here is some important recent history on the issue:

1. In July 2011, former President Bill Clinton said he would use the 14th Amendment to raise the national debt ceiling “without hesitation, and force the courts to stop me” if a default was in sight. It’s “necessary to pay for appropriations already made, so you can’t say, ‘Well, we won the last election and we didn’t vote for some of that stuff, so we’re going to throw the whole country’s credit into arrears.’”

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