Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Is Power of the Purse a Constitutional Concept?

     One of the biggest complaints from some on the Right in the conservative movement is that their elected representatives in congress have not done enough, or even all they can, to stop the Obama agenda. The charge against Republican leadership in the House and Senate is that they roll over for President Obama. Evidentiary to that charge is that Republican leadership refuses to use the power of the purse to stop the Obama agenda. I counted myself in that camp until I realized the hypocrisy of that well-intentioned position.
     The very same persons who claim constitutional fidelity in opposing much of the Obama agenda seem to have no problem being infidels to that very constitution as it applies to their own agenda, right or wrong. If we as conservatives say we want to hold the president, any president, and congress, any congress, to the principles of the constitution as they relate to enumerated powers, we must hold ourselves to the same standard.
     Primarily, the constitution gives the authority of raising revenue, laying taxes and imposts, and paying the debts of the United States to the House of Representatives. The Senate of the United States has a secondary role in the revenue process insomuch as it can add amendments to such bills. The framers of the constitution felt that all fiscal matters should at least originate in the House because it was closer to people than the Senate. This of course was before the Founders' purpose for the Senate was bastardized by the 17th amendment by allowing popular election of its members.
     There is no such wording as power of the purse present in the United States constitution. And even that oft used phrase has morphed from the congress' responsibility to pay the nation's debts to meaning they have some constitutional power, which does not exist, to defund of their own accord outside the legislative process, or even shut down parts of the government over policy disagreements with the president.
     As conservatives we are right to question and criticize any president who oversteps his constitutional boundaries. But we are also bound by the same document, whose enumerated powers gives congress certain authorities and responsibilities, none of which includes withholding payments for government functions with which we do not agree. The Founders' never intended for the authority to pay the nation's bills to be used as a political tool against a president from an opposing Party. And we run the risk of engaging in hypocrisy when we claim such powers, and then spew invective at members of congress for actually following the constitution by not exercising those fallacious authorities.

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