Who Has Control Over The Government’s Budget?

I was recently contacted by a concerned Texan regarding a town hall meeting she attended with her Congressional representative. Her email to me reads as follows:

I have a constitutional question. At a town hall yesterday, we had a heated discussion with our Congressional representative Mike Conaway. Our question was why isn’t the House withholding funds for Obama’s overreaches? Conaway’s reply was the House can’t do that alone, it also takes the Senate. I have been under the impression the House alone controlled the purse strings. Am I correct?

I wanted to respond to this email publicly since it involves an important constitutional issue. I fear that many are confused on this vital check and balance; and because of our ignorance of this principle, we are losing one of the most important controls on government incorporated into the Constitution.

Article 1, section 7 of the Constitution is the governing text regarding this issue of spending. It reads:

All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.

Since the Constitution is a contract, pursuant to contract law we must look to the drafters of the contract when we need clarity. James Madison explains exactly what we need to know in Federalist 58:

The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose, the supplies requisite for the support of the government…This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutatory measure.

Madison also explains that one of the main reasons the House was vested with this important power was to reduce “the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of government” as the people may demand.

On May 15, 1789, Madison, then a federal representative to his District in Virginia, had a conversation with fellow Virginia Representative Alexander White during the ratification debates:

Mr. White said: “The Constitution, having authorized the House of Representatives alone to originate money bills, places an important trust in our hands, which, as their protectors, we ought not to part with.  I do not mean to imply that the Senate are less to be trusted than this house; but the Constitution, no doubt for wise purposes, has given the immediate representatives of the people a control over the whole government in this particular, which, for their interest, they ought not let out of their hands.”

It is interesting to note that Alexander White is repeating the principle of the power of the purse Madison identified in Federalist 58, that it is the duty of the House to have a “control over the whole government” to reduce “the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of government.”

Madison replies to White with confirmation:

The principle reason why the Constitution had made this distinction was, because they (the House) were chosen by the people, and supposed to be the best acquainted with their interest and ability.

It is clear, according to the drafters of the Constitution, that the House alone was vested with the power of purse. Pursuant to Article 1 section 7, the Senate may propose amendments and may concur, but their assent is not necessary. As both White and Madison stated, this power rests in the House alone because it is the House that is chosen directly by the people as their representatives, and best suited to redress their grievances and reduce and control all the other branches as the people see fit. If the House proposes a budget that the Senate refuses to vote upon, then the House budget stands. If the Senate proposes an amendment to the budget, and the House doesn’t want it, then the original House budget stands. It is also important to note that constitutionally speaking, the president has no veto power over a budget.

Some may confuse the procedure for passing a law with the procedure for passing a budget. A very important distinction must be recognized; a budget expires, but a law does not. A law must follow the procedure of both houses of Congress, with veto power by the president because in order to get rid of a law, it must be repealed. Budgets, however, expire and must be renewed by each congressional session. No future Congress is ever bound by a past congressional budget. That is why the Senate is not necessary and the President is procedurally excluded from the budget process.  

We must also remember that one of the chief purposes for vesting this power in the House was to reduce the overgrowth of the other branches of government. It is counterintuitive to ask the House to exercise that control over the Senate, the Executive, and the Judiciary and then require those branches to concur with that control. It is highly unlikely that our founders would create such an absurdity with the Constitution.

The current budget procedures, invented outside the boundaries of the Constitution by past Congresses, have achieved exactly what both Madison and White have warned about; they have let this vital power out of their hands and placed it into the hands of those not constitutionally fit to fulfil the demand. We need educated and principled leaders in Congress to stand against this usurp of the greatest check and balance on governmental overreach.  

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

Senator Graham, All Unborn Children Have Value

Speaking on the US Senate Floor for the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, US Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, “All I’m asking is just don’t crush that baby’s skull unless there’s a very good reason.”  

While I agree with parts of Graham’s bill, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortion after 20 weeks since babies can feel pain at this stage, I do not agree with the fact that it has exceptions for abortions, and I cannot agree with his statement. According to Senator Graham, good reasons for an abortion exception include endangerment of the mother’s life, and if the pregnancy is the result of abuse. In my opinion, however, there is absolutely no good reason to crush an infant’s skull.

Let me put it this way. In the first reason, if you risk the mother, there is only a chance that death could occur. But if you perform an abortion, there is absolutely no way around it; that baby is going to die.  

In the second reason, exception for sexual abuse, is it right to kill a child just because its life started violently? Are not all men created equal, and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?  Jeremiah 1:5 says: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” None of these exceptions are good reasons at all.

Retired Southern Baptist pastor and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee said that “Every human life has value because it is the creation of the hands of a holy God.”

I believe that we need to end abortion in its entirety and do it soon. We are the voice for the voiceless and must stand up for every human life, not just one here and one there. America has to get off the tracks because as the song goes, “There’s a long black train comin’ down the line.” Hell exists, and we can’t pretend it doesn’t.


Learn more about your Constitution with Mason Chandler and the “Institute on the Constitution” and receive your free gift.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

Not All Energy Is Created Equal

On September 17, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, with bipartisan support, advanced legislation to lift the 1970s-era ban on crude-oil exports—which is expected to receive a full floor vote within a matter of weeks.

Ending this obsolete ban would unleash America’s energy producers on the global market, increasing domestic production and creating jobs. Additionally, reports from experts indicate that it will also lower prices at the pump.

Due to President Obama’s threatened veto, getting the Democrats on board may require giving them something they want. Morning Consult recently reported: “Momentum is building in Congress to repeal the antiquated ban on exporting crude oil. Lawmakers and energy industry representatives are talking about other energy policies that could be swapped or combined to achieve that objective. Renewable energy tax credits are part of the equation.”

Those “renewable energy tax credits” are mainly the wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) and solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). Like the oil-export ban, the wind PTC is an archaic policy that has no place in today’s reality of energy abundance.

Passed by Congress in 1992, the PTC costs taxpayers like you and me billions each year. Americans pay for wind twice: first in their tax bills, then in their utility bills. Electricity generated from new wind facilities is between three and four times as expensive as that from existing coal and nuclear power plants, according to a new study from the Institute for Energy Research.

Despite the mountain of evidence against wind energy, this summer, the Senate Finance Committee rushed through a package of expired tax provisions, including the wind PTC. Now, wind lobbyists are looking for a legislative “vehicle” to latch on to, preferably one with bipartisan support, to push through another PTC extension without a fair hearing—which is why they’re eyeing the oil-export bill.

According to The Hill, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) said he could consider lifting the ban “only if it’s tied to a permanent extension of the wind and solar tax credits.”

Swapping the PTC for oil exports is a bad deal. Lifting the ban deserves to pass in its own right. But what many don’t realize is that trading the PTC for oil exports is also a Faustian bargain that furthers President Obama’s destructive climate-change agenda.

Obama’s sweeping new carbon regulations, known as the “Clean Power Plan”—finalized in August—require states to drastically cut carbon dioxide emissions. It does this by shuttering low-cost coal plants and building expensive new wind and solar facilities. The problem: wind and solar are unsustainable without massive taxpayer handouts like the PTC and ITC and market-distorting mandates like state Renewable Portfolio Standards.

The wind PTC is vital to Obama’s carbon regulations. His plan depends on exponential wind growth, and the wind industry depends on government handouts like the PTC to avoid total collapse, let alone grow.

Congress must strip the PTC out of tax extenders and refuse to use wind subsidies as a bargaining chip. The two are totally unrelated. One is a liquid fuel used primarily for transportation. The other is a way to generate electricity, albeit inefficiently, ineffectively and uneconomically. One helps our trade deficit problem and increases revenues as FuelFix reports: “liberalizing crude trade spurs more domestic production, with a resulting boost in government revenue from the activity.” The other is a hidden tax that hurts all Americans.

By rejecting an extension of the wind PTC and lifting the ban on oil exports, Congress would end corporate welfare for wind lobbyists, deal a blow to Obama’s costly carbon regulations, and free America’s entrepreneurs to provide abundant, affordable, and reliable energy for all.

The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.

Wow: The Senate Just Shot Down A Bill That Could Save Thousands Of Lives

The Senate voted today on a bill which would have banned abortions after twenty weeks in the United States. Twenty weeks into a pregnancy is the time when a pre-born child is considered definitely capable of feeling pain.

The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, S1553, failed to get the sixty votes necessary to pass in the Senate and go to President Obama’s desk. Democrats blocked the bill with a final vote of 54 to 42.

President Obama promised to veto the bill if it did, in fact, reach his desk.

Republicans timed the measure for Pope Francis’ arrival in the US.

Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) stated, “The message to the Pope is…there are only seven countries in the world that allow abortion this late, at five months. And I’d like us to not be one of them.”

Senator Lindsey Graham, who introduced the bill, stated: “This vote will mark the first time the Senate has been put on record about this important issue” and then said, “The sooner this legislation becomes law, the better.”

Live Action President, Lila Rose, said this about today’s vote:

Today’s failure of the Senate to pass a law preventing most abortions after babies are old enough to feel pain is beyond belief. It should sicken every American that our elected leaders refuse to protect the most vulnerable in our society, even when science has proven that at just 20 weeks old, children in the womb can feel the intense pain of the abortionists’ tools tearing their arms and legs from their bodies. Every senator who voted against this legislation is telling the public loud and clear that he supports the barbaric, horrific practice of tearing limb from torso and poisoning to death five month, seven month and even eight month old babies in the womb.

What do you think about the Senate’s decision?

h/t: LiveActionNews

Mitch McConnell’s War On Iran — And Boeing?

(Editor’s note: this commentary was originally published at OtherWords.org)

Republicans in Congress may have failed to stop the landmark nuclear accord with Iran, but that doesn’t mean they’ve finished bloviating.

As the news came in that President Barack Obama had secured enough votes to override any objections to the deal from Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to re-impose any sanctions the deal lifts.

This is despite the fact that the ambassadors of the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China, and Russia had just briefed U.S. senators and told them that they were going to lift their own nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, as soon as international authorities verified its compliance.

McConnell apparently looked into his crystal ball and determined that Iran would “inevitably” cheat. So, he said, the United States might as well go back on its own word first — and spare the trouble of re-imposing sanctions later.

McConnell doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

First of all, this is essentially an advanced version of the inspection regime the international community developed for Saddam Hussein. Experts will know almost immediately if the Iranians cheat. McConnell’s complaints have nothing to do with security and everything to do with grandstanding.

And second, what McConnell and his warmongering pals in the Senate either don’t know or have chosen to ignore is that very, very few U.S. sanctions on Iran will be lifted with this deal — only those related to its nuclear program and its overseas frozen assets.

The only trade sanctions that will be lifted anytime soon are those related to civil aviation. (Iran has a terrible air safety record, since sanctions have prevented its airlines from ordering replacement parts from overseas. Hundreds have died as a result.)

The only new American companies that will be allowed to sell anything to Iran are companies like Boeing and others that make parts for jets. They’re the ones who will get hurt if Congress imposes new trade sanctions while the rest of the world lifts them.

Well, them and anyone who dies in a plane crash as a result.

U.S. companies have been itching to do business with Iran for decades, but sanctions have prevented that. The Europeans, though, can sell anything they want. They don’t have the same restrictions that Congress put on U.S. businesses back in 1995, prohibiting the sale of virtually anything made in the United States to Iran over concerns about Iran’s human rights record.

The Europeans, the Chinese, and the Russians will likely have a full-blown trade relationship with Iran by the end of the year. That’s fine. Good for us for standing on principle, I guess.

But threatening to “re-impose” sanctions is just silly. New sanctions will only wreck the improvements the Obama administration has made in relations with Iran, damage Obama’s foreign policy legacy, and make a military conflict with Iran more likely.

Maybe that’s what McConnell wants. If so, let him say it, rather than skirting around the issue.

OtherWords columnist John Kiriakou is an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies. He’s a former CIA counterterrorism officer and senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. OtherWords.org.


The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.