President Obama and his advisers have insisted repeatedly that the only way to avoid a default is for Congress to raise the debt ceiling.

Yet each time the clock starts ticking for lawmakers to vote to raise it or face a default, the question inevitably arises whether there is another way out.

That’s for a good reason: The possibility that the U.S. could fail to make a payment on its bonds or other obligations is so unthinkable that other alternatives that would normally be unthinkable become thinkable.

Among those alternatives are some that President Obama could undertake unilaterally, by stretching the limits of what is practical or what is legal.

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