The American Form of Government

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MSNBC host Chris Matthews said today on Meet the Press, to moderator David Gregory:

I was watching your discussion. And you made the points about how ObamaCare, Affordable Care Act, had been passed by the House, by the Senate, signed by the President, reviewed by the Supreme Court, and then the President got re-elected on that very issue.

The thing that was-- watching that discussion, Senator Cruz talks as if there should be a final test that you have to get through before a law goes into effect. In other words, a final vote, whether it's on debt ceiling or whatever, or on the shutdown of the government, sort of a final look at the law and say, "Well, should really let it go into effect even before it's set to go into effect?"

That's not really our American form of government. You outlined the American form of government, the test by which we submit any new legislation, and it's submitted, the President signs it, it's reviewed by the courts, it's the law.

A few notes. First, the House didn't get re-elected, in large part on this very issue: the passage of "ObamaCare" is a big reason why the House changed from Democratic to Republican, and then why the Republican House got re-elected two years later. Matthews appears to be implying that Obama's re-election gives more weight to whether "ObamaCare" should be implemented than the House's switching control the Republicans, and then them winning re-election, but that's patent nonsense.

Second, yes, "ObamaCare" is the law of the land. On the other hand, so are the many mandates Obama is delaying, and he is arguably breaking the law in delaying them without congressional approval. And how is that when he delays things without legal authority he's a hero, but when Republicans try to delay things a proper legal way, they are terrorists and racists and rapists?

Third, while it is the law of the land, what is not the proper law of the land is the funding of "ObamaCare" in fiscal year 2014, which begins Tuesday. Only the Congress for fiscal year 2014 can authorize spending for fiscal year 2014, no matter what "ObamaCare" says. In fact, Chris Matthews is completely wrong: whenever you ask for money from Congress, you are necessarily taking another look at the law and asking if you want it to go into effect. Every single time. That's the same with Medicare, and the war in Afghanistan, and anything else that needs funding from the Congress. The Congress is continually looking at laws and asking whether we want them to go into effect, every time funding for them comes up.

In short, Matthews is accidentally right that there is no "final look at the law," but there's an annual look at the law.

That is why James Madison wrote in Federalist 58, "The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose, the supplies requisite for the support of government. They, in a word, hold the purse that powerful instrument by which we behold, in the history of the British Constitution, an infant and humble representation of the people gradually enlarging the sphere of its activity and importance, and finally reducing, as far as it seems to have wished, all the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of the government. This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure."

(And make no mistake: Madison is actually talking about the House wielding the power to shrink the size of government and to threaten completely shutting down the government here, and he says that normally in such an impasse, the House can, will, and should, win the day.)

Yes, the House previously voted for "ObamaCare." But we literally have a new House, a different one from the one we had then, and funding for "ObamaCare" has to go through not just the previous House, but every following House. That, Mr. Matthews, is the actual American form of government, and it always has been.

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This page contains a single entry by pudge published on September 29, 2013 10:18 AM.

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