No, House Republicans Are Not “Abusing” the System

It’s said of late that Republicans are a minority party abusing their control of the house to pervert the functioning of the federal government.

As anyone with even the most basic knowledge of the principles motivating the constitutional structure of the legislative and executive branches knows, this is nonsense. Even if we ignore the goals of checks and balances and separation of powers, the Constitution will in no case whatsoever suffer a bill to become law where either the House or the Senate does not consent to its passing.

The Founders provided for a quite different rule in the case of the President’s veto, which may be overruled by a 2/3 vote of each house. If they had believed it proper that the vote of one Chamber of Congress likewise be subject to overrule by some combination of federal powers, they were obviously capable of making it so.

How does one suppose the Constitutional Convention (a body actually tasked only with proposing amendments to the Articles of Confederation) might have reacted to the suggestion that, say, the President and a bare majority of the Senate could pass a law for the raising of revenue or issuance of debt over the objections of the House of Representatives? How might these delegates, late of the Revolutionary War, have felt about the proposal that the President and the upper chamber could tax and spend without consent of the section of government intended to be most responsive to the People?

To ask this question today is to laugh at the absurdity of it being seriously considered in 1787.

And from a less historic procedural standpoint, the Democrats were fully capable of preventing this occurrence of this situation when they had control of both chambers and the Presidency four years ago. Just as they passed Obamacare with no Republican vote, they could have enacted a bill to abolish the debt ceiling, or to raise it to $100 trillion, or so on.

Why didn’t the Democrats do this? For the same reason Obamacare was designed not to be effective during Obama’s first term: fear of political consequences.

They concluded that the benefits of doing so (power to borrow and spend unlimited amounts of money) did not justify the risks (broadcasting their intent to borrow and spend unlimited amounts of money).

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