Sometimes I really wonder about the brain trust we call Congress. Yes, they are at it again. This time the constitutionally challenged member is Senator Chuck Schumer. He supposedly has a law degree from Harvard Law, per the biography on his website. I say supposedly because that would mean he, of all people, should have more than a passing knowledge of the Constitution and how it divides the powers of our government. Alas, this isn’t the case, since the illustrious Senator thinks that he can, through legislation, shift the power of the purse over to the President.
I’ve written before about the constitutional ineptness of a Senator. Maybe it’s just that 6 year terms make them stop using their brains until it’s time to be re-elected. Or maybe they are just counting on the plethora of low information voters won’t know enough about the Constitution to say anything. I’m thinking the latter over the former is what Senator Schumer is counting on: stupid people who won’t call him out on his really stupid idea. Well, Senator, I’m not one of them.
Senator Schumer said he intends to propose legislation that will circumvent the constitutionally set power of the purse. His idea: transfer the power to raise the debt ceiling from Congress to the President. It really isn’t his original idea. RINO and constitutional “scholar” Mitch McConnell originally came up with it in 2011. What Schumer, and McConnell, are suggesting is found in Schumer’s recent quote about the recent shut down “One way to avoid this from happening again is for us to implement the McConnell rule, which says that Congress must disapprove rather than approve increases in the debt ceiling. If we were to do that, the chances of going up to the brink again, the chances of this kind of debacle would decrease. I’m going to introduce legislation to do just that, and it would really help.” Sure it would. It would help transfer a balance of power over to another branch of government, upsetting what the Founders set under the Constitution.
What he is proposing, and McConnell proposed before him, is giving the President unilateral power to decide our ability to borrow money. Under the “Rule” Congress would only be able to stop him via a two-thirds majority vote (like it takes to override a Presidential veto). Two thirds of Congress can’t agree on what to have for lunch. The President in practice would have absolutely no one stopping him from borrowing money. Keep in mind, our debt has gone up $7 trillion in the last 5 years – unprecedented amounts of borrowing in that period of time. More power isn’t what he needs.
But you’re probably thinking that isn’t necessarily a bad idea if it avoids a shutdown again. Wrong again, it is, and why comes down to how our Constitution divides the powers of government. More importantly it comes down to why: checks on power.
So let’s take a look at what the Constitution says about power and who has it. Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power of the purse. Under Section 7, “All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives” meaning they have to start there. If you wondered why the bills for the shutdown had to come from the House and go to the Senate, that’s why.
Section 8 gives Congress the power to tax us. Taxes are used to “to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States”. It also gives them the power: to borrow money against “the credit of the United States”; regulate commerce with foreign nations, between states and with Indian Tribes; to coin money and regulate its value; set the punishment for those who counterfeit our money; and other varied responsibilities.
In other words, Congress, especially the House, controls the money.
Article II sets out the powers of the President. Section 2 sets out his duties. Specifically: Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy; power to grant reprieves and pardons for Federal offenses (except Impeachment); make Treaties (the Senate must vote on and pass by two thirds); appoint Ambassadors, Justices of the Supreme Court (again with Congressional approval necessary); and fill recess appointments that expire when Congress goes back into session.
Nowhere in Article 2 does it say the President should have the power to decide the debt ceiling. IN FACT, that power is specifically given to the House of Representatives in Article 1! So let’s review the “McConnell Rule.” The President says “I will raise the debt ceiling” and Congress must vote against it by a two thirds majority, not just a simple majority. Just to remind you, two thirds of the House is 290 of 435 Representatives, and two thirds of the Senate is 66 out of 100 Senators.
Again, Article 1 (as opposed to 2) gives the HOUSE the power to “To borrow money on the credit of the United States” (emphasis added).
Now why do you think our Founding Fathers divvied up the power of government, and made each branch a check on the other? Anyone? Anyone? Because one branch having too much power breeds tyranny. Having another branch be something other than a rubber stamp means that the interests and rights of the citizens are protected.
I wrote last week about how law-by-law our rights under the Constitution are being eroded. This is another really big one. Every one of us needs to get in touch with our Senators and Representatives and remind them of why the President can’t do this – our Constitution. Send them a copy of this column. Send them a copy of the Constitution, but send them your words saying loudly “ABSOLUTELY NOT!” And Senator Schumer, shame on you. You know better.
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