By Dr. Harold Pease
In a 230/189 vote the U.S. House of Representative recently voted to fund the government but defund Obamacare. Can it do so constitutionally? Historically throughout the ages, the people have had little freedom from excessive government which became the cause of the American Revolution. Ramses, an Egyptian Pharaoh, made the Israelite slaves gather their own straw in addition to making the bricks. The greatest concerns of the masses have always been excessive taxation and unpopular wars because the first took their hard earned money and the second potentially their lives. Under the Constitution, and for the first time in history, they could prevent either.
Everything hinged upon funding which was given exclusively to the House of Representatives—the only power that they alone had. “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.” To fund anything, in this case Obamacare, first approval is required by the House of Representatives. If that does not happen taxpayer money cannot be spent. The people, through their representatives to Congress, have determined, after a three-year closer scrutiny of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), that it does not protect the patient, is not affordable and is not even workable; hence in the interests of the vast majority of the people needs to be defunded.
Spending can only occur after raising revenue and since only one body is authorized to initiate this, it follows that if they refuse to initiate it the issue ends, regardless of what the Senate chooses to do. Refusal is understood. Neither Senate or Presidential acceptance is necessary as on other bills—the people have spoken. If the House won’t do the necessary first part, second and third parts cannot follow. It might be well to remember that this grant to the House, in Article 7, is a grant of power separate from and preceding Section 8 which itemizes the law making, thus spending, powers of Congress. In this particular instance, raising revenue, the House has clear distinction and is set apart from the Senate. Any other interpretation would undermine, even destroy, the peoples right of approval of taxation—the right not to be excessively taxed. A right no other people in world history has had, as far as I am able to determine—a most precious freedom.
House opposition to funding Obamacare would have been far more powerful if made a “stand alone” bill not attached to general funding, but it is not. “Stand alone,” having no other parts, would have left the Senate no wiggle or compromise room once it went to them, nor would there be for the Joint Conference Committee thereafter that reconciles any differences between the two houses. There would be nothing to reconcile—Obamacare is merely defunded. No expenditures for Obamacare would follow. This course is recommended should the Senate strip defunding language from the bill when they get it. Such action on their part would be a slap in the face of The House of Representatives and they should accept it as such.
One benefit of keeping a defunding bill separate is that the President then could not as easily accuse the republicans of attempting to shut down the government. It would have nothing to do with funding the government. It would be a separate argument, which goes as follows. Not expending money is less likely to shut the government down than over expending which is what the House says the bill contributes to. Presently we are unable to pay our bills to the tune of between 3 to 4 billion dollars a day.
Choosing to defund in the normal budget bill, instead of as a separate bill, is a decidedly weaker approach. They subject themselves to a no vote from the Senate and a promised veto from the President, were it to make it through the Senate. Overriding the veto is not likely. The people lose again and the clarity of the Constitution, that the House alone has origin authority, is lost.
The long-term practice of not specifically raising revenue but instead listing expenditures, then asking for that amount of money, does cloud the issue and does allow the Senate to, in effect, raise revenue otherwise prohibited by clear constitutional language. We should have a separate bill disconnected from the budget, specifically intended to raise revenue. Since the budget bill is seen today as raising revenue we are probably stuck with the practice until some real constitutionalist get into office. If Obamacare expenses are omitted can the Senate, or Joint Conference Committee add them by amendment? Yes, and it will, and that is the problem!! For now it appears that the only hope of the House is to stand firm on the defunding issue in the Joint Conference Committee.
Still, the intent of the Founding Fathers was to give the people, through their House of Representatives, the power collectively to say no to any proposed federal tax, which she is decidedly doing. Members of the Senate should drop their resistance accepting the authority of their sister law making branch lest they play a dominate role in the loss of it by their ignorance of the Constitution. If this check on excessive government is destroyed, we may one day return to forcibly making bricks with straw that we are also forced to gather.