Category Archive 'House of Representatives'
05 Oct 2013

“What Right Do They Have?”

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“The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose, the supplies requisite for the support of 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 the 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.”

— James Madison, Federalist 58.

04 Oct 2013

The House of Representatives and the Power of the Purse

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Scene from the Constitutional Convention of 1787

Andrew C. McCarthy delivers a nice history lesson on why the framers accorded the House of Representatives the power of the purse and then explains why that power both can and should to be applied to defund Obamacare.

Let’s move directly to the 1787 convention in Philadelphia.

One of the major challenges confronting the delegates was to broker the competing claims of small and large states. As Franklin summarized, “If a proportional representation takes place, the small States contend that their liberties will be in danger. If an equality of votes is to be put in its place, the large States say their money will be in danger.” This resulted, of course, in the great compromise: equality among states in the Senate and proportional representation (by population) in the House. But this arrangement was inadequate to quell the large states’ fears; it was also necessary to tinker with the powers assigned to the two chambers. As Franklin put it, the Senate would be restricted generally in all appropriations & dispositions of money to be drawn out of the General Treasury; and in all laws for supplying that Treasury, the Delegates of the several States shall have suffrage in proportion to the Sums which their respective States do actually contribute to the Treasury [emphasis added].

When the Origination Clause was specifically taken up, a spirited debate ensued, with some delegates protesting against restrictions on the Senate. According to Madison’s records, however, what “generally prevailed” was the argument of George Mason:

The consideration which weighed with the Committee was that the 1st branch [i.e., the House of Representatives] would be the immediate representatives of the people, the 2nd [the Senate] would not. Should the latter have the power of giving away the people’s money, they might soon forget the source from whence they received it [emphasis added]. We might soon have an Aristocracy.

Mason’s concerns seem prescient in our era of mammoth national government presided over by an entrenched ruling class of professional politicians. He worried that

the Senate is not like the H. of Representatives chosen frequently and obliged to return frequently among the people. They are chosen by the Sts for 6 years, will probably settle themselves at the seat of Government, will pursue schemes for their aggrandizement. . . . If the Senate can originate, they will in the recess of the Legislative Sessions, hatch their mischievous projects, for their own purposes, and have their money bills ready cut & dried, (to use a common phrase) for the meeting of the H. of Representatives. . . . The purse strings should be in the hands of the Representatives of the people.

Yes, the purse strings, not just the power to tax. Concededly, the Origination Clause speaks of bills “for raising revenue.” In selling the Constitution to the nation, though, it was portrayed as securing in the hands of the people’s representatives the power of the purse. It is an empty power if spending is not included.

The relevant paragraph in Madison’s Federalist No. 58 is worth quoting in full (all italics mine):

A constitutional and infallible resource still remains with the larger states by which they will be able at all times to accomplish their just purposes. The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose the supplies requisite for the support of 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 overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of the 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.

To my mind, what Madison describes unquestionably transcends taxing authority. I believe a “complete and effectual weapon . . . for obtaining a redress of every grievance” must give “the immediate representatives of the people” the power to block funding for a government takeover of health care that was enacted by fraud and strong-arming; that was adamantly represented not to be the tax that the Supreme Court later found it to be; and that is substantially opposed by the people, and has been since its enactment.

18 May 2013

Rep. Mike Kelly on IRS Scandal

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Mike Kelly (R- PA 3rd ), at hearings this week. reams acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller and receives a standing ovation.

16 Dec 2011

Don’t Say Republican House Representatives Never Did Anything For You

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They saved your right to continue to use Thomas Edison’s incandescent light bulbs if you so choose. We won’t all have to sit in our living rooms bathed in the Orwellian florescent glare of the over-priced alternative bulbs favored by devotees of the modern cult of Gaia.

The Politico reports.

The shutdown-averting budget bill will block federal light bulb efficiency standards, giving a win to House Republicans fighting the so-called ban on incandescent light bulbs.

GOP and Democratic sources tell POLITICO the final omnibus bill includes a rider defunding the Energy Department’s standards for traditional incandescent light bulbs to be 30 percent more energy efficient.

DOE’s light bulb rules — authorized under a 2007 energy law authored signed by President George W. Bush — would start going into effect Jan. 1. The rider will prevent DOE from implementing the rules through Sept. 30.

But Democrats said they could claim a “compromise” by adding language to the omnibus that requires DOE grant recipients greater than $1 million to certify they will upgrade the efficiency of their facilities by replacing any lighting to meet or exceed the 2007 energy law’s standards.

Fueled by conservative talk radio, Republicans made the last-ditch attempt to stop federal regulations from making their way into every Americans’ living room.

“There are just some issues that just grab the public’s attention. This is one of them,” said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.). “It’s going to be dealt with in this legislation once and for all.”

Our self-appointed lords and masters on the left were not pleased.

White House… communications director Dan Pfeiffer [was] saying Wednesday that the House GOP plan would “undercut environmental protections.”

On Twitter, Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) wrote: “I strongly oppose that language. I hope it’s deleted from any final bill that we pass.”

“This is just another poke in the eye,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.).

12 Nov 2011

Rep. Mike Kelly Tells Congress Off

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08 Jan 2011

House Votes to Repeal Obamacare

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House Roll Call

Jeff Dobbs gleefully notes the margin for repeal comfortably exceeds the margin by which it passed:

March 21, 2010:
House passes health care bill on 219-212 vote

January 7, 2011:
House Votes to Repeal “Job-Killing” Health Care Law 236-181

In 2010, the Democrats passed ObamaCare by a 7 vote margin. In 2011, the Republicans passed the bill to repeal ObamaCare with a 55 vote margin.

Three out of four democrats voting for repeal were members of the 26 member Blue Dog Coalition: Dan Boren (2-OK), Mike McIntyre (7-NC), and Mike Ross (4-AR). Larry Kissel (8-NC), who also voted for repeal, is not a member.

08 Dec 2010

Constitutional Illiteracy Rife in US Senate

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When journalists diffidently inquired a few months back about the Constitutional basis for mandated health insurance purchases, the response of democrat party Solons typically varied between blank incomprehension and clear indignation at the effrontery of anyone suggesting that any kind of limits on their power might exist.

Walter Olson remarks on a recent demonstration for the need of remedial high school civics lesson for US senators.

Last Tuesday, despite warnings of regulatory overreach, the Senate voted 73-25 in favor of S. 510, the Food Safety Modernization Act, which would greatly expand the powers of the federal Food and Drug Administration and impose extensive new testing and paperwork requirements on farmers and food producers. Almost at once, however, the bill was derailed — whether temporarily or otherwise remains to be seen — by what the New York Times called an “arcane parliamentary mistake” and the L.A. Times considered a purely “technical flaw“. Roll Call put it more bluntly: “[Senate] Democrats violated a constitutional provision requiring that tax provisions originate in the House.” While the New York Times weirdly cast Senate Republicans as the villains in the affair, other news sources more accurately reported that it was the (Democratic) House leadership that was standing up for its prerogatives:

    “Unfortunately, [the Senate] passed a bill which is not consistent with the Constitution of the United States, so we are going to have to figure out how to do that consistent with the constitutional requirement that revenue bills start in the House,” [House Majority Leader Steny] Hoyer said.

    According to Hoyer, this has happened multiple times this Congress, causing severe legislative angina.

    “The Senate knows the rule and should follow the rule and they should be cognizant of the rule,” Hoyer scolded. “Nobody ought to be surprised by the rule. It is in the Constitution, and you have all been lectured and we have as well about reading the Constitution.”

To those familiar with the history of the U.S. Constitution, the Origination Clause should hardly count as arcane or technical. It stands as the very first sentence of Article I, Section 7: “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.” …

With its two-year terms of office and less populous constituencies, the House of Representatives was of course designed to be the legislative branch closest to the people, most readily thrown out of office when it strays from the public mood. Those considerations aside, the Constitution is rightly celebrated for the way its framers made the House and Senate different from each other precisely in order to ensure jealousies and dissensions between the two, those jealousies and dissensions serving as a safeguard against hasty or ill-considered legislation. In this case it worked exactly as planned, and the self-regard of the House leadership will serve as the reason for another round of scrutiny for a bill that could badly use some. Somewhere up above the spirit of James Madison may have heard the scolding words of Rep. Hoyer, and smiled.

Things, of course, are not really different among House democrats either. Remember Alcee Hastings’ analysis of the legal dynamic behind the operations of American government?

04 Nov 2010

It’s Red Country Again

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click for larger version

As this Politico map again demonstrates, outside a few urban enclaves, this is basically a Republican-voting center right country.

14 Aug 2010

He Has a Little List

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70 House democrats (really 69, since Robert Wexler, 19-FL, resigned in January in order to accept a lucrative position heading up a marvelously well-funded, pro-Palestinian Jewish organization) belong to the Democratic Socialists of America. “Democratic Socialist” is a term of art for you-know-what. (Hint: Begins with “C.”) They’ll soon be short two more, once ethics problems end the careers of Maxine Waters and Charlie Rangel. (Gateway Pundit)

30 Jul 2010

“Not Going To Lose The House”

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While The Plum Line reports:

In another sign that House Dem leaders are eager to silence talk about them losing the House, top Democrats are circulating a memo on Capitol Hill that lays out a detailed case for why Republicans will come up short this fall.

Daniel Foster puts it slightly differently:

[Y]ou’re seeing the DCCC telling their members that the House majority is going to a beautiful farm upstate where it can run freely and play with other Democratic majorities.

27 Jul 2010

Republicans Can Kill Obamacare

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The GOP has a reasonable chance of recapturing the Senate in November, but it looks like it is definitely going to take the House.

Even with a Republican-controlled Senate, there will probably be enough RINOs from Maine and Massachusetts and other states to stop efforts to repeal the socialization of the American health care system, and even if we did have enough votes in the Senate, the Obamination has the veto.

But, leftwing Talking Points Memo is warning, a Republican House still has other tactics available. Most particularly, the power of the purse. The House can just defund Obamacare.

House GOP Conference Chair Mike Pence [said] “We’ll also use whatever means are available to delay implementation of Obamacare.”

Pence cited the “power of the purse” — Congress’ prerogative to appropriate funds to federal agencies — as a key tool at the Republicans’ disposal if they win back the House. That’s not just bluster.

“The most serious, yet realistic, possibility is precisely the one that you’re suggesting: what the Republicans can do through appropriations bills,” says Paul van de Water, a health care expert at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

In short, implementing the health care law costs money. “Some money was provided in the health reform bill itself, but not by any means all the administrative funding that will be needed,” van de Water said. “If HHS and Treasury don’t get appropriations they need to run the law well, that could be a real problem. It’s not sexy but it’s serious.”

This can work one of few ways. House Republicans, in negotiations with the Senate, could demand appropriation levels beneath what’s necessary to effectively implement the law. If the two chambers reach an agreement — even an agreement that leaves the health care law cash strapped — Obama would be hard pressed to issue a veto. “It’s hard for the president to veto a bill because it doesn’t provide enough money.”

“In theory [they] could cut the funding 10 percent, 15 percent, 20 percent,” says Congressional expert Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. “The problem is, you could do a lot of damage in a lot of different places.”

But things could shake out differently. An agreement might not be reached, for instance. Or, similarly, Republicans could simply “refuse to fund the entire Labor-HHS appropriations bill, or…pass an appropriation for Labor-HHS that does not include any funds for implementation of the health care plan,” as Ornstein put it.

“They could really bollocks things up if they say ‘none of the funds in this bill can be used to administrate the Affordable Care Act,” echoes van de Water.

That could lead to a veto and then a showdown between the White House and the Hill, mimicking the 1995 standoff between Bill Clinton and then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich. …

There are other tricks the GOP could pull, too. “A second thing that they can do is hold a bunch of hearings and try to tie HHS and CMS into knots, by subpoenaing docs calling in of key figures to testify. In effect, deliberate sabotage to gum up the works,” Ornstein adds.

It’s all but impossible to get Democrats to discuss this threat openly — it’s election season, and they have to hew tightly to the line that a GOP takeover of the House is impossible. But it’s not.

Let’s make sure Republicans are prepared to follow through with exactly what TPM is warning about.

25 Mar 2010

Castro Congratulated Obama Too Soon

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As HuffPo explains, it’s back to the House, where Pandora’s Box opens again.

Senate Republicans succeeded early Thursday morning in finding two flaws in the House-passed health care reconciliation package. Neither is of any substance, but the Senate parliamentarian informed Democratic leaders that both are in violation of the Byrd Rule.

One is related to Pell Grants and the other makes small technical corrections. Why they’re in violation of the Byrd Rule doesn’t matter; the upshot is that Republicans will succeed in at least slightly altering the legislation, which means that the House is once again required to vote on it. With no substantial changes, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) should have little problem assembling the same coalition of 220 Democrats who passed the measure Sunday night. That’s already four more than the minimum 216 required for passage.

But the ruling might give Democrats another option — the public one.

Democratic leadership no longer has to worry that additional amendments would send it back to the House, since it must return to the lower chamber regardless. The Senate is now free to put to the test that much-debated question of whether 50 votes exist for a public option. Democrats could also elect to expand Medicare or Medicaid, now that they only need 50 votes in the Senate and the approval of the House.

The question then becomes whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could pass the reconciliation changes with a public option. She has long maintained that the House has the votes to do so. Indeed, it did so in late 2009. Since then, however, two members who supported the public option are no longer in the House. But with fewer members, the House also needs two fewer votes than the 218 required for a majority in November, alleviating some of that pressure.

Would they have the votes?

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