By Dr. Harold Pease
Every evening as I watch the news I hear the Democrats blasted for their irresponsible, wasteful spending leading this nation to its highest national debt with over $6 trillion accredited to President Barack Obama alone. Just this week Secretary of State John Kerry gave the Palestinians some $500 million not to attack Israel. Last month Egypt reportedly received 16 F-16 fighter jets together with some 400 tanks; their likely target Israel, our supposed friend. Every year we give them $1.7 billion in foreign aid. All this while we close down White House tours allegedly because we do not have the money to keep them open. We presently spend (waste) about $20 billion dollars annually on “buying” friends, called foreign aid. The spending goes on and on with Democrats, according to the news, responsible for most of it.
So, if true, why attack the Republican Party? They are not in charge Democrats are! That was so for Obama’s first two years in power, but decidedly not so since 2010. When Republicans retook the House of Representatives and Nancy Pelosi handed the gavel of leadership to John Boehner, Republicans assumed the major responsibility of this Congressional body—taxing and spending. The Constitution 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” (Article I, Section 7, Clause 1). Neither the Senate nor the White House can constitutionally initiate taxes. All the Republican controlled House has to do to stop irresponsible spending is to not originate the bill to cover the expenses. The annual House Budget could leave out items formerly approved. Deficit spending could end simply by their refusal to pass new deficit spending bills.
It is true that the President has not had a budget, although required by law, in over four years and he is already almost two months late in proposing one this year as well. Until such time as one is processed constitutionally the House budget should be the official federal budget. It is also true that no tax law can originate to cover his expenses without first the consent of the House of Representatives. Hence only the House Budget really matters. If a president spends money not first approved by this body he is, in effect, raising revenue, a power that he does not possess and both parties should share in his condemnation. Sole power of impeachment also originates from the House, and a president perpetually attempting to exclude the House of its sole power to raise revenue might be reminded of the second power. Also, given that a president’s salary is also a budget item, the House might explore the possibility of not raising revenue for this purpose should this body feel threatened by a president’s usurpation of the House power. This procedure was openly used by state legislatures on zealous royal governors to help bring them into line during Colonial American History.
Why do the House of Representatives alone have this power? The power of the purse (both taxing and spending) is one of the most important powers of the Constitution. The Founders resolved that it should be left with the representatives of the people, thus making it impossible for the people to be over-taxed without their consent for more than two years as all members of this body come up for reelection on the same date—every two years. To my knowledge no other people in history have had control over their taxes. It is a priceless freedom.
Addressing this subject James Madison observed, “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.” The U.S. Constitution mandates that “the House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose the supplies requisite for the support of government.” This power alone he added, “can overcome all the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of the government. They, in a word, hold the purse… (The Federalist, No. 58).”
So Republicans, if you do not like the above reckless spending charge that I have attributed to you, assume your Constitutional House of Representatives duty to protect the people from such and do so immediately. You are in charge in this matter, not they. Your failure to act weakens this part of the Constitution. Mankind waited almost 6,000 years to have freedom from excessive taxation. You do not have the right to lose it for posterity.
Dr. Harold Pease is an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He has taught history and political science from this perspective for over 25 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, please visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org.