December 1, 2014

The Power of the Purse

What can the GOP Congress do to counter Obama’s executive amnesty?

If there is a government shutdown before year’s end, it will be at the hands of either the Democrats in the U.S. Senate or Barack Obama, because they seek to provoke, not govern. We refer, of course, to the fight over Obama’s immigration executive order. Republicans do, however, have the opportunity to both fund the U.S. government and stall the imperial amnesty.

Obama’s legacy of lawlessness continues with his unconstitutional edict for up to five million illegal immigrants. And Senate Democrats have undermined separation of powers throughout the president’s entire tenure through their veto-without-a-presidential-pen practices – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) simply spikes whatever House bills the president opposes.

The Democrat-controlled Senate passed a full budget in April 2009 and not again until December 2013. In the interim, a patchwork series of Continuing Resolutions (CRs) passed at the last minute under threat of government shutdown has funded the morbidly obese federal government.

And here we go again.

A CR was signed into law in September to keep the government operational through Dec. 11. If another continuing resolution is not passed, a government shutdown will ensue.

All appropriations bills – the CR being one of three types – must originate in the House. That little detail becomes critically important now that the Congressional Research Service (CRS) has issued a ruling at the written request of House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY).

Rogers submitted a letter to the CRS, a non-partisan organization that provides analysis, review and assistance in developing legislation, in an attempt to document his claims that a continuing resolution could not refuse budgetary funding to agencies or departments that generated incoming monies from the collection of fees, such as the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office. In other words, Rogers wants to fund Obama’s amnesty.

However, the CRS refuted the Appropriations chairman’s beliefs and claims: “In light of Congress’s constitutional power over the purse, the Supreme Court has recognized that ‘Congress may always circumscribe agency discretion to allocate resources by putting restrictions in the operative statutes.’ Where Congress has done so, ‘an agency is not free simply to disregard statutory responsibilities.’ Therefore, if a statute were enacted which prohibited appropriated funds from being used for some specified purposes, then the relevant funds would be unavailable to be obligated or expended for those purposes.”

You know where this is going.

The House is absolutely within its constitutionally enumerated powers and is supported by the Supreme Court in its jurisdictional role to exercise all authority over appropriations, whether to proactively fund or to restrict funding in “operative statutes.”

Translation: The key agency involved in many of the activities to implement Obama’s amnesty imperial edict, the USCIS, can be excluded from an omnibus, long-term appropriations bill that would fund the government through September 2015. And a short-term continuing resolution may be issued with restrictions and an expiration date falling after the beginning of the 114th Congress, Jan. 3, 2015.

Can you hear that? It’s the sound of the gnashing of teeth at the White House. Obama lawlessly proclaimed amnesty while declaring he hadn’t actually changed any laws. At least that was before he boasted just before Thanksgiving he “just took an action to change the law.”

Republican House leadership has only one thing to do: Operate within constitutional powers. If the House passes an omnibus bill fully funding the government and, simultaneously, passes a CR with restrictions and a shorter shelf-life for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office, it will result in one of three outcomes:

  1. The U.S. Senate rejects the legislation, resulting in a government shutdown at the hands of Democrats.

  2. The U.S. Senate passes the legislation and Barack Obama vetoes the bill, resulting in a government shutdown at the hands of the president.

  3. The U.S. Senate passes the legislation, the bill is signed into law by Obama and the government is funded with no shutdown.

Republicans should identify their authority and jurisdiction, plainly state it, and create a tightly consistent message declaring the GOP’s priority is to fund all agencies of government fully and lawfully.

Furthermore, with the Left’s weakness clearly visible, the GOP must tell the American public they’ve been heard loud and clear. Voters spoke on Nov. 4 at the ballot box, rejecting the incompetence and failed policies of the Obamacrats, whether on unconstitutional amnesty, taxes, the Keystone pipeline or foreign policy.

Republicans should couch every action in those terms. Rather than a political tit for tat with volleys, accusations and political snark that always results in over-promising and under-delivering, elected Republicans must strategically plan, implement and deliver.

America wants adult leadership that governs with integrity and Rule of Law. Republicans can do it while speaking directly to the American people and restraining the toddler in the White House.

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