I have no doubt there will be many who will question my assertion. In fact, I expect a good many people to reject it out right. However, those who do will be in defiance of the Constitution – just like Obama will be if he does not negotiate a deal with the Republicans. I can easily explain my case. All we have to do is read the Constitution.
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.
First, this clearly gives the power of the purse to the House of Representatives. This was done because the House is the lower body; the body closest to the people. This is a check against government abuse of its power to tax. Because the House is elected every two years, and because it was assumed the Representatives would be comprised mostly of the common man, it was assumed that the House would provide the surest and swiftest means of rectifying any government abuse of its taxation authority. Also, by placing the power of the purse under the House, it gave the people a check against excesses in the Senate (i.e. States) and the Executive – should they grow too powerful or abusive of the people. So the Republicans are perfectly within their constitutional authority to defund any program they wish. They have that power – by law.
But the Constitution places restrictions on what Congress can spend money to do:
Article I, Section 8:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
None of the enumerated powers that follow authorizes Congress to spend money for government health care. In fact, none of the enumerated powers authorizes Congress to spend money on any form of welfare program. A point clearly explained by the man who actually wrote the document:
With respect to the words general welfare, I have always regarded them as qualified by the detail of powers connected with them. To take them in a literal and unlimited sense would be a metamorphosis of the Constitution into a character which there is a host of proofs was not contemplated by its creators.
However, past Houses, Senates, Executives and the Supreme Court have repeatedly failed to uphold this limit in the Constitution. But the check on that usurpation of power is still in place, and the current House is attempting to exercise it by defunding Obamacare — a law that is clearly unconstitutional. This check on the usurpation and abuse of power was also affirmed by our founders. Once again, from James Madison, the man who actually wrote the Constitution:
What is to be the consequence, in case the Congress shall misconstrue this part [the necessary and proper clause] of the Constitution and exercise powers not warranted by its true meaning, I answer the same as if they should misconstrue or enlarge any other power vested in them…the success of the usurpation will depend on the executive and judiciary departments, which are to expound and give effect to the legislative acts; and in a last resort a remedy must be obtained from the people, who can by the elections of more faithful representatives, annul the acts of the usurpers.
–Federalist No. 44, January 25, 1788
In this case, the executive and judiciary are part of the usurpation, so the current House is trying to pull them back into Constitutional restraint.
Once again, the House is totally within its Constitutional authority to behave as it is doing. That said, it does have a duty to fund the nation’s debt:
The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
Now, this means the Federal Government has to pay its debts, and that places a duty on Congress to provide for the necessary payment. It does not mandate that that allowance must be connected to other political agendas. In other words, a duty negates political agenda. Congress has a duty to pass legislation to pay the nation’s debt — even if it means passing a clean bill addressing only that issue, with nothing attached. However, there is no constitutional authority here for the President to do anything before Congress makes such an allowance. Notice section 5:
The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
This clearly places sole authority for paying the nation’s debt with Congress, so Obama cannot invoke the 14th Amendment and direct payment unless Congress first authorizes such action. If he does so, he has assumed dictatorial powers and must be impeached. However, if Congress does pass legislation that authorizes payment of the debt – even if that is all the legislation authorizes – then Obama becomes constitutionally mandated to sign the bill and pay the debt. He is as bound by the 14th Amendment as Congress, but he has no authority to control the action. His only role is to carry out what Congress authorizes. If Obama were to veto such a bill, then the responsibility for allowing default on the debt would lie with him and him alone. As this is a constitutionally mandated duty – paying the debt – failure to do so would constitute an impeachable offense. Furthermore, should the House pass a bill to pay our debt and the Senate refuse to vote on it, then the Senate would accept blame for refusal to do their constitutional duty, as well. There are provisions that can then be invoked to remove those Senators who refused to do their duty.
You see, paying the nation’s debt is constitutionally mandated – just like defending the nation. To refuse to defend the nation is treason, and deserves impeachment. Likewise, to refuse to do a duty for partisan political reasons should also result in impeachment or expulsion from whichever Representative body the person belongs. Some things are open to debate and political fighting. Some things simply are not. This is the difference between politics and duty, and Obama clearly does not care about the distinction.
Once again, I’m sure there are people who will argue I am wrong, and they will cite all sort of legal language and precedent/principle to support their case. But then, that is precisely the problem: legalese is not how the Constitution was intended to be read or implemented. It was written for the common person, and was intended to be used as the common person would use it – which is exactly what I just described.
NOTE: It should be pointed out that there is nothing inherently principled in the Republican Party in general. On the whole, the Republican Party — especially its leadership — is no better than the Democrat Party. They all exhibit contempt for the Constitution as well as the American people. To the extent that principle can be found in the stand the Party is making, it is centered around Ted Cruz and those who are standing with him and with no one else.