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Jan 31 2013

GOP Congressman Offers Bizarre Constitutional Amendment

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), one of the Republican congressmen swept into office by the Tea Party movement in 2010, might want to read that constitution he claims to revere so much. He’s proposing a constitutional amendment that allows the impeachment of the president if the budget is not balanced.

His Protecting America’s Solvency Act, H.R. 371, would let the debt ceiling rise by $1 trillion after congressional passage of the balanced-budget amendment. The ceiling could rise another $1 trillion after states ratify it.

The bill says the amendment must require federal spending not to exceed the revenue it collects, a goal it must meet after five years. But it does allow Congress to suspend this limit with a four-fifths majority vote, or by a simple majority during wartime.

If a budget deficit occurred for any other reason, the president would have to take “such steps as are necessary” to avoid it. Failure would leave him open to impeachment.

“The President may not order any increase in taxes or other revenue measures to enforce the Amendment,” the bill reads. “A President’s failure to prevent a prohibited fiscal year deficit is an impeachable offense.”

Seriously, has he never read the Constitution? The president can’t spend — or refuse to spend — a dime that is not appropriated by Congress. Congress controls the budget, not the president, who can only sign or veto the appropriation bills that the legislature passes.

23 comments

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  1. 1
    sqlrob

    What makes you think he hasn’t? He might be trying to play a “free impeachment” card.

  2. 2
    Gregory in Seattle

    More specifically, it is the House of Representatives who controls the nation’s purse: it is the House’s one and only unique power.

  3. 3
    Randomfactor

    it is the House’s one and only unique power.

    You’re forgetting impeachment itself.

  4. 4
    eric

    Can you imagine the howls from those same tea partiers when such a thing took place to a GOP president? Congress passes unbalanced budget; President vetoes. In order to prevent total, catastrophic system failure, Congress passes an even more unbalanced budget with twice the pork in order to reach the 2/3 majority mark. Presdent automatically impeached. Wingnuts go crazy (um, crazier).

  5. 5
    marcus

    “The president can’t spend — or refuse to spend — a dime that is not appropriated by Congress.”

    You have this really odd obsession with facts. You forget that the GOP is immune that kind of logic (or any logic really).

  6. 6
    jufulu

    Another important misconception is that you need some kind of legal reason to impeach a President. Hell you could impeach a President for chewing the wrong kind of gum if you could get the votes. Put crassly, they tried to impeach Clinton because he lied about a blow job (yes I know he was under oath). Impeachment is a political proceeding, the rest is just theater.

  7. 7
    Dennis N

    Having such a law in place would be a delicious rock and hard place situation for GOP Reps, at least on the surface. Vote for the balanced budget you claim to have wet dreams about, or proxy vote for impeachment of the president you hate? The truth is that they don’t actually care a lick about a balanced budget and would gleefully proxy vote for impeachment.

  8. 8
    Modusoperandi

    Wrong! Since the so-called “president” proposes a budget, any budget that passes (or, if one isn’t passed, the various continuing resolutions based on the last budget to pass) is his fault. The impeachment is real, though.
     
    Also, in the event this all happens the Speaker of the House gets to beat the president unconscious with the corpse of John Maynard Keynes, because even in this magical world where the president makes the budget there’s no way that there’s a 4/5ths majority to get around this amendment. Unless it follows us making Iran explode. Because war.

  9. 9
    Gregory in Seattle

    @Randomfactor #3

    You’re forgetting impeachment itself.

    Oops. Yeah, my bad.

  10. 10
    Gregory in Seattle

    @jufulu #6 – Technically, Clinton was impeached on two charges: one count of perjury and one count of obstruction of justice. A second perjury charge and a charge of abusing the power of the presidency failed to pass the House. Had Clinton exercised his rights under the Fifth Amendment, none of these charges could have been brought.

  11. 11
    Alverant

    #10
    Actually Clinton didn’t commit perjury. In the context of his testimony the word “sex” has a different meaning than to the public that does not include oral sex. Meaning he told the truth. But that doesn’t matter when you have a jury who would vote to impeach anyway.

  12. 12
    jnorris

    Tea Party = never read the Constitution

  13. 13
    baal

    Mo (long lost cousin of Mel?) Brooks should offer up more of these. It’s a patently idiotic idea and continues to support the argument that the (R) (in specific) are fundamentally bad at governing.

  14. 14
    John Hinkle

    I could see trying to resurrect a balanced budget amendment and putting the onus on Congress, but why would he target the president? Oh that’s right, Brooks is a tea bagger.

  15. 15
    Mr Ed

    As long as we are talking wacky ideas I’ve got one I have been noodling with. Why doesn’t congress do something instead of just posturing.

  16. 16
    Dexeron

    If anything should be an impeachable offense, it’s wasting the country’s time with idiotic bills like this one.

  17. 17
    typecaster

    But that doesn’t matter when you have a jury who would vote to impeach anyway.

    Fortunately, Clinton had a jury (the Senate) that wasn’t going to vote to remove him on the House’s indictment (which is all that impeachment is.) Unless the Dems lose the Senate big time in 2014, they won’t uphold an impeachment of Obama, either. (And yes, I think the current House is quite capable of going there. I can hope the post-2014 House is less so.)

    Why doesn’t congress do something instead of just posturing?

    Now you’re just talking crazy talk.

  18. 18
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    Actually, the president has a clearly established power to NOT spend money allocated.

    A president cannot then use that money for other purposes, but simply not spending allocated money is a presidential power.

    This was one of the arguments for the constitutionality of the budget line-item-veto.

  19. 19
    matty1

    “The President may not order any increase in taxes or other revenue measures to enforce the Amendment,”

    WHAT? leaving aside your point the President can’t actually order an increase in taxes both income and expenditure affect the debt level. In what universe would anyone want to permanently cut off one of the tools for reducing the debt?

    I get that people don’t want tax rises and some want cuts but come on. Suppose you gutted the US government down to the salary and expenses of one night watchman and lowered taxes to match. One year he needs a new torch (extra expense) and you can’t borrow or raise the money to pay for it.

  20. 20
    eamick

    His bill doesn’t propose a constitutional amendment itself; it’s not in the right form for that. It spells out a law to take effect once the constitution is amended in a particular way.

    As an aside, I marvel at how the House’s legislative counsels avoid bursting out laughing and/or dope slapping the authors of these idiotic bills.

  21. 21
    Larry

    Note that said amendment does not apply should the President at the time be a republican. Further, if the president is black and a democrat, then double-secret impeachment shall be imposed.

  22. 22
    derobert

    Seriously, has he never read the Constitution? The president can’t spend — or refuse to spend — a dime that is not appropriated by Congress.

    .

    That doesn’t quite seem fair. He’s proposing to change the Constitution after all, and in particular:

    (3) In any fiscal year in which Congress does not suspend the Amendment pursuant to its terms and in which total outlays will or may exceed total receipts, the President shall take such steps as are necessary to ensure total outlays for that fiscal year do not exceed total receipts. The President may not order any increase in taxes or other revenue measures to enforce the Amendment.

    So if the President doesn’t currently have the authority to not spend money Congress has allocated, then it seems like this proposal would grant it.

    But more fun is paragraph 4, which every member of Congress and state Governors and Attourneys General standing to ask a court to cut the budget.

  23. 23
    Scott Simmons

    Actually, the president has a clearly established power to NOT spend money allocated.

    A president cannot then use that money for other purposes, but simply not spending allocated money is a presidential power.

    This was one of the arguments for the constitutionality of the budget line-item-veto.

    Constitutionally, yes. Legally, not since 1974. Under the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act, should the President decide not to spend appropriated funds, he needs to submit that decision for approval to the Congress. If they vote against it, or even just don’t bring it to a vote, he must spend the money as appropriated.

    Congress rammed that through during the Watergate scandal, when Nixon was too busy fighting impeachment to spend any energy or waning political capital fighting anything else …

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