“There is a non-frivolous argument that Section Four would authorize the president to ignore the debt ceiling,” said Louis Michael Seidman, a constitutional law professor at Georgetown University Law School. “He could respect the debt… by simply not spending money for anything else. On the other hand, the president is also obligated to take care that the laws are faithfully executed under Article Two, and there are laws requiring payment of appropriated funds.”

Along with Seidman and Epps, Michael Abramowicz, a George Washington University law professor, and Jonathan Zasloff, a UCLA law professor, have advocated this interpretation. Others, including Michael Stern, an expert in congressional legal issues, have criticized efforts to declare the debt limit constitutional, saying it violates the separation of powers.

“This is pushing executive authority to the limit,” Epps conceded. “My argument is it’s not much further, if at all, than how previous presidents pushed…. This goes back to the Jackson administration: The government becomes paralyzed, the president seizes the power to act unilaterally.”