BY FRANK SALVATO – Soon, President Obama will stand before the American people, at his inaugural, and take the Oath of Office. He will place his hand on the Holy Bible (we assume) and swear an oath, before God and country, to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America. He did this once before, in 2009. But he has increasingly ignored the dictates and tenets of this Founding Document, one of the documents in the Charters of Freedom. He has disparaged the document as “flawed” and has transparently sought out legal mechanisms – and sometimes not so legal mechanisms – to circumvent the provisions and authorities set forth within. Many Presidents have done the same, although, perhaps, not as egregiously.
Truth be told, a great deal of the partisan gridlock – at least where the finances of the nation are concerned – wouldn’t exist today if the politicians we elect to office would simply cease being politicians upon being tasked with doing the business of government; if they simply followed the rules of government as set forth by the Founding Documents. But then, as James Madison said, “If men were angels…”
In a prior article, Why Is Boehner Negotiating with Obama at All?, I pointed out:
“Article I, Section 7, of the United States Constitution reads:
“‘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.’
“And while the verbiage that follows outlines the processes by which the presidential veto and congressional veto overrides are to be executed, nowhere is the power of the purse – the ability to create legislation that raises revenue – extended to any other branch of government or congressional body.
“I bring this fundamental tenet of our system of government to the forefront because I am puzzled as to why House Republicans, led by Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), are negotiating budgetary financial matters, a responsibility and purview exclusively vested in the US House of Representatives, with anyone outside that body, let alone the Executive Branch, which only has the constitutional power of the veto over said legislation?
“Such are the questions that arise when the bully pulpit is used to usurp the constitutional order of our government.”
So, you can imagine how happy I was to read that Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH), has told his fellow Republicans that he is done with private, one-on-one negotiations with President Obama. The simple fact of the matter is that he never – ever – should have entered into negotiations with anyone from the Executive Branch over issues of raising revenue in the first place; not on the fiscal cliff, the debt ceiling, the budget, tax reform, deficit reduction…none of it. Pure and simple, the Executive Branch, other than allocating revenues granted to it to through the constitutionally mandated legislative process, to the agencies and departments under their purview, has no authority over the raising of revenue whatsoever. I defy anyone to find any provision in the US Constitution that contradicts that fact.
The reality that President Obama (and through him his team) can co-opt authority over matters of national finance simply by bullying his way to a “negotiating table” under the perverted guise of “leadership” says a lot about how far we have gotten away from the constitutional process of government. That the elected officials in the Legislative Branch do not howl in protest over the usurpation of the Separation of Powers – and perhaps that they don’t know better to howl in the first place – presents as a frighteningly, but all to true, commentary on just how constitutionally illiterate (or subversive) our elected officials have become. The same, sadly, can be said of the electorate itself.
If, and that is the optimal word here, our elected federal officials adhered to the US Constitution as the rulebook by which government is executed (which it is), legislation would follow a path that goes something like this:
▪ Legislation regarding the generation and securing of revenue (including matters of debt reduction, budgeting and borrowing) would be created working through regular order, letting the House work its will.
▪ The legislation would be advanced to the US Senate where they “may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.” (Note: had the 17th Amendment not been passed allowing for the direct election of Senators by the electorate, Senators would still be charged with protecting the rights of their respective States from the overreach of the federal government.)
▪ The legislation would then go to “conference” where the original legislation would be reconciled between the two chambers.
▪ The legislation would then be presented to the Executive Branch (as is the proper procedure for any piece of legislation), where the President can either sign it into law or veto it.
▪ At this point the House (because the legislation for our purposes has to do with revenue generation) would reconsider the legislation and the objections of the Executive Branch and either override the veto or make changes so as to satisfy the Executive’s objections. The overridden or revised bill would then go to the Senate for a similar procedure.
So, as you can see, the only options available for President Obama (or the Executive Branch), constitutionally, are to either sign the legislation into law or veto the legislation presented. Nowhere – nowhere – in the US Constitution is the Executive Branch afforded negotiating rights on matters of raising revenue but for those two options and at that moment in the timeline.
That understood, what we just witnessed – with the US Senate crafting legislation regarding the raising of revenue and the Executive Branch negotiating from the start with the leadership of the US House – was wholly in usurpation of the constitutional process by which revenue legislation is supposed to adhere. In fact, it could be said that the entire piece of legislation, by way of its origination, is unconstitutional.
Yet, because there will be no constitutional objection to this travesty of process, American taxpayers are now saddled with higher taxes and over $4 trillion in new debt over the next ten years, and we haven’t even dealt with the sequestration, the debt ceiling or the budget, all of which will, most likely, see an arrogant and belligerent Executive Branch bullying its way to yet more “negotiating tables”; negotiating tables at which they do not belong. I am willing to bet that through it all, taxes spending and the national debt will rise, and deficit reduction will remain in the realm of political rhetoric; the filth of political opportunism soiling the futures of our great-grandchildren.
On January 21, 2013, Barack Obama will place his hand on the Holy Bible (we assume) and swear this oath, as mandated by Article II, Section 1 of the US Constitution:
“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Nowhere in that oath exists the caveat, “…unless I think the document is flawed.” Barack Obama’s job as President of the United States is to uphold and protect; to defend the US Constitution. That means adhering to the provisions, limitations and authorities held within, including the legislative process by which revenue is raised for the federal government.
So, when you hear Mr. Obama say: “I will not have another debate with this Congress over whether or not they should pay the bills that they’ve already racked up through the laws that they passed,” two thoughts should come to mind.
First, your eyes should roll, given the fact that all the Obama Administration has done over the past four years is scream that they need to spend more money. Blaming Congress for racking up trillions in new debt with nothing to show for it but fictitious “jobs saved or created” numbers that don’t reconcile with the unemployment and workforce stats is tantamount to piling up debt on your Dad’s credit card and then blaming him for being a spendthrift.
Second, you should be asking yourself – and your elected representatives – this: What gives Mr. Obama the right to say he “will not have another debate with this Congress,” over the debt ceiling when he has no authority to debate it in the first place? More importantly, you should ask yourself why your elected members to the US House would allow their leadership to include Mr. Obama in debates exclusive to House membership…ever.
The time to understand the US Constitution – to become constitutionally literate – is now…as is the time to actually start asking these question. Your great-grandchildren’s’ freedom may just depend on what you do right now.