By: The James Madison Institute / February 22, 2011

The James Madison Institute


February 22, 2011

By Bob Sanchez, JMI Policy Director
President Obama and congressional Republicans are far apart on federal spending. Mr. Obama, who just released a budget awash in red ink, says he’s willing to compromise. However, he has also warned that he’ll veto any budget Congress passes if it includes too many items he opposes or omits his must-haves.Yet there’s one thing that no President has the power to veto: Spending that isn’t there.Moreover, if the U.S. Constitution still means anything, the Republican-led House has an edge over the Democrat-led Senate in crafting a budget. It is spelled out right there in Article I. Section VII, which begins: “All Bills raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives…”Granted, Section VII continues, “but the Senate may propose or concur on Amendments as on other Bills.” Even so, if the House steadfastly refused to include billions for dubious federal purposes such as high-speed rail or meddling in public education, there’s little the Senate could do to force the House to act.Moreover, absent a joint resolution allowing the federal government to continue operating at the current year’s funding levels, the President would have no recourse except to veto other spending bills that come his way and risk a shutdown, whether of the entire federal government or major portions of it.Back in the 1990s, the last previous time a GOP-led House and a Democrat in the White House engaged in a staring contest over the budget, Congress “blinked” and yielded in the face of media criticism blaming Congress for the specter of a government shutdown.Yet a lot has changed since the 1990s. The need to deal with the skyrocketing deficits is more urgent than ever before — so much so that even some commentators in the news media have caught on. Indeed, the Washington Post’s editorial page and other liberal voices have harshly criticized Mr. Obama’s budget for failing to deal with the deficit.Meanwhile, the 2010 election cycle brought the House GOP an infusion of the Tea Party’s fiscal conservatism. The ultimate test in this contest of wills, however, will be whether the election’s outcome also stiffened the new House majority’s spine.