U.S. Budget: A Congressional Duty


A leading Republican member of the House was complaining on TV that President Obama had not submitted a budget, but his criticism was disingenuous, since he knew or should have known the Constitution delegates to Congress, not the President, the duty to introduce and pass a budget.

The Constitution expressly places legislative powers in the House and Senate (Art I, Sec. 1). It says all revenue bills must start in the House of Representatives (Art I, Sec 7). The job of balancing the budget is clearly a Congressional job. They are the ones that have the power to lay and collect taxes, pay debts, and borrow and coin money. (Art I, Sec. 8). They have the power to raise revenue through the income tax (Amend 16). They alone also have the power to control spending, as money may not be taken from the Treasury, except by appropriation made by law (Art I, Sec 9).

Under the Constitution, the presidential role is simply to approve or disapprove bills passed by the House and Senate. (Art I, Sec 7). If the President vetoes a bill, it can be overridden by two-thirds majority in Congress. (Art I, Sec 7). The President gives information on the State of the Union, and may only recommend legislative measures, at that time. (Art II, Sec. 3) The primary job of the President however is not to write laws; it is to see that they are faithfully executed (Art. II, Sec 3).

The recent Republican Budget, ushered through the House by Paul Ryan, privatizes Medicare, as we know it. It is a bill the vast majority of Americans clearly oppose. The Republicans should go back to the drawing board and should come up with an entirely new budget, instead of criticizing President Obama.

But it is unlikely this Republican-dominated House will ever do that, or produce a balanced budget that makes any sense, because this group is hopelessly fixated on only the spending side of the equation, to the exclusion of revenues. My fear is nothing will happen until the next election, and only if this class of Republicans is run out of town on a rail. Only if a majority of Democrats is allowed to write a budget supported by the people, will we finally see one that is fair and balanced.

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