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"Indeed, the rage of theorists to make constitutions a vehicle for the conveyance of their own crude, and visionary aphorisms of government, requires to be guarded against with the most unceasing vigilance."
     -- Joseph Story
     Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States
     Book III, § 1857.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Andrew Sullivan on the Federal budget.

I get really tired of saying this: The budget is Congress's responsibility. Not the President's. Congress has the responsibility for passing the appropriations acts whereby money is disbursed from the Treasury. The President has no control over it at all, unless he is willing to veto approprations bills.

This particular mess belongs on Nixon's doorstep -- well, tombstone. It used to be, just because Congress passed a bill authorizing that money be spent, didn't mean that the President had to spend that money. It was an effective -- and wholly constitutional -- line-item veto, and it worked for almost two centuries. Congress didn't like it very much, though (see the item below on limits on the powers of legislatures), so it took shameless advantage of a weakened Presidency, as Watergate wound its way toward its equally shameful conclusion, to shove a bill down Nixon's throat, enacting that the President no longer has any discretion not to disburse the moneys Congress appropriates. Maybe Nixon thought, if he signed it, it would buy off that impending impeachment. The consequence is, the only constraint left on the Congressional proclivity to gush money in all directions is the veto, which, given the way the budget gets passed each year, is the equivalent of stopping a bank robbery with a nuclear bomb.

Anyway, if you're pissed about runaway Federal spending, that's where you should direct your attention.

It occurs to me, while I've come across this story several times, I've never actually seen the law it purports to describe. Maybe some digging is in order.

-- posted by Clayton 5/02/2003 01:35:00 AM

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