By Harold Pease, Ph. D
A federal judge just ruled that Congress never appropriated the funding for the cost-sharing reductions in Obamacare. Judge Rosemary Collyer, citing Article I, Section 7, Clause 1, “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives…” reminding the President that “Congress is the only source for such an appropriation, and no public money can be spent without one.”
Apparently, President Barack Obama realizing that his program to fund those unable to afford healthcare unless subsidized by the taxpayer, like food stamps, had not been appropriated by the House of Representatives, as required by the Constitution, defiantly looked for ways to do it anyway. That body denied his request that they do so in their fiscal 2014 budget. Rather than accept the fact that this is the only body that can approve expenditures constitutionally, the President began to pour billions into it, in effect raising revenue. Since the inception of nationalized healthcare the House had voted more than 70 times for its repeal so subsidizing what they considered a failed program was not going to happen. When, through executive orders Obama funded it anyway, House Speaker John Boehner filed a lawsuit challenging the executive branch’s ability to alter legislation once approved by Congress.
The judge’s ruling to stop further reimbursements to insurance companies who reduced health insurance for those thought to be unable to pay in exchange for the government’s promise to pay the difference out of tax funds, is delayed while the case is appealed to the D. C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Affected are approximately 57% of the people who signed up (estimated 5 million) for coverage through the federal exchange web page. Without the subsidies healthcare costs will rise substantially, although the taxpayer should get a break.
There are few parts of the Constitution more clear than, “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives.” This means that any law, which extracts money from the backs of the American worker, can only originate from the House.
So why should you care if the president defies this small part of the Constitution? For thousands of years, until the Constitution, governments taxed their citizens whenever and whatever they wished. The people had no say. If the Egyptian Pharaoh wanted bricks without straw from the Israelites, for instance, so be it. Rulers lived lavishly off the wealth extracted from their poor subjects with little or no mercy toward them—lavish physical structures and frivolous wars of conquest were too often the norm. The Founders wisely took this power from the rich and gave it to the poor themselves by requiring that the poor, then the majority, had to consent to any taxation over them. The power to tax is the only constitutional power exclusively given to the masses. The House of Representatives was the only branch of government designed to actually represent them as it is based upon population. The Senate was to represent the states, the people only indirectly.
As far as I know the United States is the only country in world history that had this protection from their government placing its tax base with the masses that pay the taxes. It is a priceless freedom. If we are over-taxed in the United States we have chosen to be and one body alone is responsible—The House of Representatives. And, if over-taxed, a correction by the masses can follow quickly as all members of this body come up for reelection on the same date—every two years.
No tax can constitutionally originate with the President or the Supreme Court, not even the Senate, although it can modify as on other bills once originated by the House. The House is also in charge of spending—even defunding something previously funded. The power of the purse (both taxing and spending) is one of the most important powers of the Constitution. We must not let this freedom dwindle or allow the line between the two legislative branches to be blurred into oblivion.
Addressing this subject James Madison, the father of the Constitution, 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 58).”
This may seem like a small thing but the people really do not want to surrender their freedom from excessive taxation, which, prior to this constitutional clause did not exist. No president should take this power unto himself by obligating the House through his defiant spending in opposition to existing law prohibiting such. Losing this is serious because, once gone, it is unlikely to be retrieved. Thank God Judge Rosemary Collyer understood this. Hopefully the D. C. Circuit Court of Appeals will as well when appealed to by the President.
Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist and 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.