I hate to bore the Congress with details, but there is a little passage in the US Constitution that could very well haunt the Legislative Branch if the House of Representatives passes the Senate bailout bill. Article I, Section 7 of the United States Constitution states that "All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills. " Simply put, the bailout package had to come from the House and the one that Congress is now considering is therefore, unconstitutional.
Modern practitioners of political science are dismissive of requirements such as this. They argue that, "this is a formality" or "a mere question of protocol," but has nothing to do with the substance of the Constitution. Reality? It has everything to do with the substance.
When the Founding Fathers developed our Constitution, they wanted the Legislative Branch to be broken into two Houses for reasons in addition to making sure large states and small states had fair representation. They also wanted to make sure that the government would be extremely deliberative about making changes in law. The US House of Representatives are up for reelection every two years and typically represent smaller populations than the Senate. They are closer to the people than the US Senate which faces reelection in six year cycles (and only approximately one-third at a time). This means the Senate can afford to take risks that the US House cannot usually take.
Proof is in the pudding. The US House took on this bailout bill earlier this week and voted against it. That bill was dead and a new bill needed to be created. According to the US Constitution, that begins in the US House. Instead the Congress is being driven by expediency instead of rule of law and they started from scratch (adding $100 billion more in the process) in the Senate where it passed in a body where many of the members have four years before they face reelection. That bill is now in the House and those members are now being told by the upper body to "jump in, the water is great."
Senators should have voted against the bill because of its unconstitutionality. US House members should now do the same, regardless of the merits of the bill itself (which are few, considering the costs). Unfortunately, discussions about constitutionality are relegated to law schools and not where laws are created. However, this cloud could follow these members to their reelection efforts or maybe all the way to the US Supreme Court.
Kevin Price articles frequently appear at ChicagoSunTimes.com, Reuters.com, USAToday.com, and other national media.
Labels: 2008 elections, bailout plan, See How They Run, US Constitution, US House of Representatives, US Senate