Debt Crisis Highlights Buck-Passing Culture of Washington

The Constitution is very specific as to which office, department or branch of government is responsible for each of the many functions of government. The decisions that have to be made in order to carry out the necessary tasks required for the good of the country is often politically unpopular. Over the years, Washington has become skilled at passing the buck and blaming others. For example, the first line in the body of the Constitution gives Congress the responsibility for “All legislative power”. (Article 1.1.1) In its eagerness to meddle in the affairs of citizens and states, Congress delegates many of its legislative powers to the various Secretaries of departments in the Executive Branch crating the giant bureaucracies that plague our lives today.

This allows Congress to further its agenda of expanding government and controlling the lives of citizens with impunity. If the “rules” (laws) prove unpopular with their constituents, they blame the Executive Branch and the Secretary or Department Head of that particular bureaucracy. Congress Members can even campaign for reelection — and often do — by opposing certain unpopular bureaucratic “rules” or Executive Departments, even though they personally may have voted for the bill that created the bureaucracy and gave it its power in the first place. When you think about it, this is an ingenious tactic for escaping blame, confusing constituents, and holding on to power.

This political ploy shows up “in spades” in the present budget and debt crisis. How often have we heard the complaint about the profligate spending by Obama; or the fact that Obama has not yet presented a budget; or, we are reminded that the Senate has not presented a budget since 2008? Here’s the shocker for many people; The Executive Branch can only spend money that has first been appropriated by Congress. (Article 1.9.7) Here is the second shocker; Neither the President nor the Senate is required by the Constitution to present a budget. Budget making is the Constitutional Responsibility of the House of Representatives. While I strongly disapprove of the actions of both the White House and the Senate, we are not going to solve our problems until we place the responsibility where it belongs.

Any Senate Budget is only a suggestion to the House of Representatives who must appropriate the funds and decide how to raise the revenue to pay for it. (Art. 1.7.1) The same is true with any presidential budget. (Art. 2.3.1) It is merely a suggestion to the House of Representatives. The Senate can offer amendments to the House’s budget but they must be approved by the House (Art. 1.7.1). The Senate can refuse to approve the House budget or the President can veto it, but neither can spend money that has not been appropriated by the House of Representatives. Some might argue that the House is only charged with the task of raising revenue, and that appropriations and the borrowing of money is not exclusively that of the House of Representatives.

Unless American businesses and foreign nations are willing to donate goods and services to the federal government, spending bills must also include appropriations to pay for the goods or services for which the money is to be spent. Hence, the raising of revenue to cover the purchase is always understood to be a part of the appropriation. That means the House of Representatives is the Constitutional originator of  the nation’s Budget.

There are only two ways of raising revenue, taxing and borrowing. Since we are told that the present necessity for raising the debt ceiling is to pay for expenditures already appropriated by Congress, that means that the deficit and the debt are both the result of the House of Representatives’ poor stewardship of the taxpayer’s money. It is just as disingenuous of the House to try and blame the Senate or the President for its lack of backbone as it is for President Obama to blame George W. Bush for his own poor leadership.

In his speech today on Congress’ raising of the debt limit, Obama also gave a litany of things on which he would like to spend more money. If any of them come to pass it will only be because the House of Representatives has abdicated its responsibility as “keeper of the purse”.  We need to watch carefully what our Representatives in the House vote for over the next sixteen months and make sure that the “business as usual” crowd is primaried and replaced.

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