English: The western front of the United State...

English: The western front of the United States Capitol. The Neoclassical style building is located in Washington, D.C., on top of Capitol Hill at the east end of the National Mall. The Capitol was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As our President and Congress war in Washington D.C., we can easily lose focus on the fundamental issues. “Human interest” stories abound. Instead of focusing what the President and his party and the House Republicans seek to gain, we can worry ourselves over the closing of our national parks or the closing of the National Institutes of Health, but the central issue is where the power resides.

Congress’s power is the legislative power, the power of the purse.

A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting sup laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and other money bills (bold added). (from here)

This legislative power is the keystone of our republic. The recognition of its importance goes all the way back to the passage of the Magna Carta.

Because the Democrat-run Senate has abandoned the normal budget process (Bob Corker says Senate has not passed a budget in more than three years), House Republicans have resorted to desperate measures to bring the Federal Budget back under control.

In The Federal Budget Process, The Washington Post briefly describes the how Congress is suppose to approve the budget. The President submits a budget, but Congress, BOTH HOUSES JOINTLY, not the president, decide how much money to spend. So long as one house balks, the president does not get to spend as much money as he wants.

Moreover, the normal process uses a piecemeal approach, divvying the budget up.


Unfortunately, as the chart above notes, that proscribed process has not been working in practice. To gain leverage to spend and to bury their pork barreling, the big spenders put together and passed huge, unreadable bills.  Now, to keep that spending in place, the big spenders have resorted to continuing resolutions, and we are running huge, unsustainable deficits.

To staunch the bleeding of our national wealth into wasteful programs largely designed to allow demagogues to buy votes, House Republicans now have no choice except to refuse to pass unconditional continuing resolutions.

Congress also has one more stopgap.  The United States Constitution (Article 1, Section 8)gives Congress, not the President, the power to borrow money. Thus, if the President wants to borrow money to pay for additional spending, Congress must approve new borrowing.  Therefore, to bring borrowing under control, House Republicans now have no choice except to insist upon conditions when Congress raises the Debt Ceiling.

Not raising the Debt Ceiling, unfortunately, poses a special problem. The Federal Government has not encountered this issue before. That is, there is no precedent, at least for the Federal Government.  So everywhere we look we have predictions of doom. However, the issue is not that complex. Suppose you or I decide not to borrow money. We have a good job, and we decide to live within our means. That’s a crisis? For a President who wants unfettered control of the budget, any limits on his authority constitutes a crisis. For corporate news media that supports that President, any limits on the authority of their President is a crisis. For us? Don’t credit card companies impose a debt ceiling on every one of us? Do credit card companies raise our credit limit without the strict assurance we will pay them back? And President Obama and the corporate news media cannot deal with that problem?

If Congress refuses to raise the debt ceiling, instead of borrowing more money the President will then have no choice except to decide how cut spending by about 20 percent. Essentially, the President will have to do what we have already done, partially shut down the government. If our government cannot manage such a feat without crippling the economy, then our government has become the economy. And for a free people, that is not a good thing. In fact, raising the debt ceiling without conditions would just make an already bad problem far worse.

Would you rather have to work hard to remain free or be a well fed slave? Just how long do you think you can trust your master to feed you well?

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  1. Citizen Tom says:

    Reblogged this on Citizen Tom and commented:
    Here is a good summary of the issues at stake as our Congress and our President battle over the partial government shutdown and raising debt ceiling.

  2. Thanks for these insights.

  3. Tom Salmon says:

    joseph elon lillie — Thank you for your comment and thanks for stopping by.

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