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Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) is a scholar of our Constitution as well as an advocate for freedom. Over the years, the Obama Administration has unilaterally issued hundreds of rules impacting all aspects of our governing laws – environment, immigration, welfare, war, ObamaCare and the list goes on. Senator Lee knows that Congress has the power of the purse and Congress should withhold funds when the President makes unilateral changes, modifies or ignores existing laws. Recently Lee said, “The best thing we can do in Congress is to withhold funds, for Congress to exercise its power of the purse.”
James Madison, the intellectual force in the creation of our Constitution, recognized Congress had the ultimate power of the purse. In The Federalist No. 58, Madison wrote:
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 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.
Madison referred to the power of the British House of Commons to control taxing and spending. For over 500 years, kings and parliaments debated and fought over the authority and power to tax. Incrementally, Parliament reduced the powers of the king and obtained a series of charters and legislation protecting the property of nobles and ultimately the citizens of England. Following the Glorious Revolution of 1688, the Bill of Rights secured the rights of Englishmen. The Bill of Rights decreed:
“That levying money for or to the use of the Crown by pretence of prerogative, without grant of Parliament, for longer time, or in other manner than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal.”
Thus, by the end of the 17th Century, the “power of the purse” was vested in the House of Commons. Today, in America, Congress has the Constitutional power to withhold funds.
President Obama, as well as many of our previous Presidents, has expanded and abused his power. It is now time for Congress to use their power of the purse to stop the unilateral, power-plays being made by the Obama Administration. Again, Madison appreciated the ultimate power of Congress:
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.