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The need for Congress to utilize the power of the purse

Updated on February 26, 2015



Congress has one weapon which it seems to be reluctant to utilize and that is their power of the purse. Implementation and enforcement of rules and regulations including executive orders requires funding to accomplish the decisions being made or that have been made. This is not more evident than the battle to not fund the immigration policy initiated by executive order. The new political structure of Congress is the result of the voting public sending a message they are tired of the culture of Congress as it has been and actions of the executive department. While the President has the ability to veto legislation he does not like he does not have the ability to spend money which is not appropriated. Every program, rules and regulations require funding to be allocated for specific purposes within each department and agency.

Threats to veto legislation which does not fund programs or policies initiated by the executive department should not deter Congress from using the allocation/appropriation process to ensure that the Constitution is honored in every decision and action by the executive department. The overreach of the federal government especially at the executive level of government and by past legislative sessions needs to be reversed. It is hoped the structure and character of the many newly elected individuals will force those who were re-elected to utilize the one tool they have in their arsenal, the power of the purse.

Lawsuits in our judicial system have often hinted in regards to specific issues that Congress has the ability and authority to curtail or prevent bad decisions being implemented by not appropriating the necessary funding. Taking action to restrict funding for any activity by Congress will be a controversial action for some individuals but it is an action that is part of the responsibilities under the Constitution.

Each year the President presents his budget proposal to Congress but it takes Congress to fund the money to implement the actions being proposed if they agree and they should not authorize funding which falls outside of constitutional authority. The line between what decisions being made by the executive departments and agencies has become vague with regards to whether they have a basis for them in the Constitution. While there will be disagreements with regards to proposed actions the decision about funding should not be based on party policy but rather are they the right decisions for the country and individuals. In addition there needs to be a process to evaluate the decisions with regards to the constitutionality.

Clearly in the past Congress has not utilized their power of the purse and in this political environment in which we now find ourselves it is a tool which begs to be utilized to curb the overreach of the executive department. It is hoped that both parties have received the message well from the voters who gave control of Congress to the Republican Party. There will undoubtedly be fights over efforts to eliminating funding for certain activities within the executive department. These fights will be used as examples in political ads for the next election.

One point to make clear with regards to funding if it is not included for activities the President or executive departments want and there is a veto it will not be the fault of any political party but the President who will impact the operations of the government. Congress has the option to fund or not fund any activity which it deems inappropriate and perhaps unconstitutional. Good decisions need to be made by this Congress with regards to funding activities which benefit their constituents and the country. It is hoped this Congress and this includes both political parties will take bold steps to stand up for the voters even in the face of veto threats. It would be a welcomed change. The voting public sent a strong message in the last two elections which has changed the political dynamics in Congress. If individuals in either party do not heed the message sent they will be looking from the outside in come the next election.

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