March 1, 2013
On Thursday, Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) proposed legislation that would give the President the authority to unilaterally modify Congressional appropriations or spending authorities contained in the sequester without the consent of Congress. “Some have raised concerns that this would give the administration too much power — that the President would just use the authority to punish his critics. I understand those concerns. But the goal here is twofold: one, to make sure the American people get the same amount of spending cuts that were promised to them in 2011, and two, to guarantee some accountability on the President’s part so that those cuts are administered in a more intelligent way,” a McConnell press release read.
For the last few weeks Americans have been treated to Armageddon scenarios of hardship if Congress does not stop the March 1st sequester for automatic spending cuts, but is disaster really on the horizon?
Back in the summer of 2011, sequestration became law at the request of the President because he rejected a deal from the Republican leadership seeking to only cut the country’s ballooning debt and deficit and did not offer meaningful tax increases.
However, 18 months later, Americans find themselves front and center for another fiscal cliff /sequestration crisis. Promises that the country did not have to worry about the harsh across the board cuts came on the campaign trail during the third Presidential debate with Mitt Romney, where President Obama said sequestration would not happen. (To view debate on CSPAN check “levels of military spending” 4:40—4:45)
For those confused by the meaning of the sequester, it is a self-inflicted piece of budget cutting legislation meant to be such a poison pill that even dysfunctional Washington DC politicos could not envision its implementation. But once again Washington proved to itself, and the country, how broken it is.
Most Americans’ believe the across-the-board cuts in federal spending will reduce the country’s ballooning $17 trillion debt. It won’t. The sequester was intended to gradually reduce the expanding annual budget deficits (averaging $1.25 Trillion under President Obama). Illustrating that anomaly to Constitutional government is the government’s housekeeping or bill paying through Continuing Resolutions or CR’s. It’s been five years since the Congress passed a budget for the President’s signature and the country continues to fund spending through the CR.
The fiscal cliff and now the 2013 sequestration issues are politically charged because neither the President nor the Congress wants to face voters in 2014 marked with a scarlet letter as the budget entitlement cutter.
This type of political rhetoric has become so polarizing that Senator McConnell must have lost his Constitutional compass when he proposed the transference of authority from the Congress to the President, essentially shifting the blame to Democrats for making politically unpopular cuts. The proposed transfer, or what in prior years was the coveted “line item veto,” was actually threatened with a veto by President Obama.
Despite the crises management emanating from Washington each day, President Obama now says that he will not be held hostage each time the Secretary of the Treasury requests an increase in the federal borrowing authority. The problem is that the Congress continues to spend trillions more than it collects and then demands the President reduce spending to control the deficit.
If this sounds like a circular argument then you are beginning to understand why there is no answer. Neither the President, in his proposed budgets – none of which has ever been adopted, nor the Congress, the branch of government controlling our national purse strings, is willing to cut spending or increase taxes.
However, the line item veto debate is not new, the Supreme Court previously addressed and prohibited the transference of Congressional Article I powers from the Congress to the President. In Clinton v. City of New York (1998), the Supreme Court struck-down the Line Item Veto Act, which granted the president the power to cancel the effect of a Congressional appropriation in accordance with a statutory formula. The Court found the cancellation authority granted to the president which prevented the vetoed line item ‘from having legal force or effect’…” directly conflicted with the Constitutional provision requiring the repeal of statutes to conform with Article I and the separation of powers between the branches of government.
So the blame game continues and the government limps along from crises to crises, as Sen. Rand Paul says, wasting more than $100 billion dollars per year because the budget process has so broken-down that the government itself nor any of its watch-dog agencies know what we are buying for our money and what is being stolen from us.
© Copyright 2013 Kimberly Dvorak All Rights Reserved.