Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Constitutional Authority

For NPR's All Things Considered, Andrea Seabrook reported that President Bush has made clear his intentions to veto any Budget that surpasses a spending cap, in an effort to limit pork-barreling. David Obey, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, has taken offense at the suggestion:

The White House has a quaint position. They say that any change to their budget is an ear-mark, and therefore illegitimate. That makes the President the king, not a president. With all due respect, the congress has the power of the purse, and we're going to exercise it.
Obey is certainly correct that Congress has constitutional authority over the Treasury; however, a unilateral declaration on the part of the President to veto any bill, including the Budget, does not constitute the establishment of a monarchy. After all, the constitution has also endowed the President with the right to veto any bill he chooses, and this doesn't infringe on Congress' "power of the purse:" According to the Checks and Balances established by the Founders, Congress may override any presidential veto with a two-thirds majority in both houses.

If the President vetoes a bill, we would hope that he does so for good reason; but if Congress cares adamantly enough about its position, they may push legislation through nevertheless. On the other hand, given that the contested amount ($25 billion) is less than 1% of the entire Budget ($3 trillion), the whole argument is probably just a terrible case political posturing on both sides.

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