Perhaps A Softer Touch My Good Doctor?

Dear Dan Benishek, keep your damned finger off my chest.

Dr Benishek, you may not have realized it, but the minute that fat digit put its pressure on my breastbone and the words “We don’t control the spending” came out, you lost a hell of a lot of respect and support from this concerned (and informed) citizen.  I have thought long and hard on how to broach this subject since our convention discussion.  Could it be that you do not understand your role as a congressman, and the powers vested in you, and the house of representatives?  Perhaps you still do not understand that the power of the purse is yours. Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 is clear.

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.”

MY own opinions notwithstanding, there are other more scholarly types who would agree; congress CAN stop Obamacare, NSA, the IRS, HUD, EPA etc., and there is little the president can do.  Heritage puts it this way:

“The Appropriations Clause is the cornerstone of Congress’s “power of the purse.” It assigns to Congress the role of final arbiter of the use of public funds. The source of Congress’s power to spend derives from Article I, Section 8, Clause 1. The Appropriations Clause provides Congress with a mechanism to control or to limit spending by the federal government. The Framers chose the particular language of limitation, not authorization, for the first part of the clause and placed it in Section 9 of Article I, along with other restrictions on governmental actions to limit, most notably, executive action.

The language is clear enough, but there is more.  Go below the fold.

Something worth a look would be the Federalist Papers; quite likely the most under-utilized qualifier for all things ‘constitutional.’  The intent of the founders, and reasoning behind the most brilliant document ever crafted by man is easily accessible now-a-days and worth the read.  Especially by those who would pretend to operate the legislative branch of our country constitutionally.  Heritage continues:

In The Federalist No. 58, James Madison described the centrality of the power of the purse’s role in the growth of representative government and its particular importance in the Constitution’s governmental structure:

The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose the supplies requisite for the support of the government. They, in a word, hold the purse—that powerful instrument by which we behold, in the history of the British Constitution, an infant and humble representation of the people gradually enlarging the sphere of its activity and importance, and finally reducing, as far as it seems to have wished, all the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of 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 salutary measure.

Under the Articles of Confederation, under which Congress possessed the power to appropriate, there was no independent executive authority. With the creation of an executive under the Constitution, the Founders decided, in the words of Justice Joseph Story in Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, “to preserve in full vigor the constitutional barrier between each department…that each should possess equally…the means of self-protection.” An important means of self-protection for the legislative department was its ability to restrict the executive’s access to public resources “but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.” Justice Story continues:

And the [legislature] has, and must have, a controlling influence over the executive power, since it holds at its own command all the resources by which a chief magistrate could make himself formidable. It possesses the power over the purse of the nation and the property of the people. It can grant or withhold supplies; it can levy or withdraw taxes; it can unnerve the power of the sword by striking down the arm that wields it.

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In short Dr. Benishek, the president, without the Congressional ability to expend resources for his own devices cannot use those resources to subvert the constitution.

If you don’t hand the weapons to him he cannot use them.  The president cannot expend resources if congress does not allow it. No agency exists under our structure that forces your hand.  The Supreme court cannot compel the congress to release funds for previously authorized expenditures.  Indeed, the power of the the purse has been available to this congress, and it has not yet been exercised.  Your declaration of powerlessness was incorrect.

And the next time you want to explain how it works to me, perhaps you bring fluffy mittens.

I bruise easily.

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