…”All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives” (Article 1, Section 7). Thus, I’ve listed the House’s “original jurisdiction” over revenue bills (laws that affect taxes) as a check. The House, however, views this clause a little differently, taking it to mean not only taxation bills but also spending bills.
The plain language of the clause would seem to contradict the House’s opinion, but the House relies on historical precedent and contemporaneous writings to support its position. In Federalist 66, for example, Alexander Hamilton writes, “The exclusive privilege of originating money bills will belong to the House of Representatives.” This phrase could easily be construed to include taxing and spending. The Supreme Court has ruled, however, that the Senate can initiate bills that create revenue, if the revenue is incidental and not directly a tax. Most recently, in US v Munoz-Flores (495 US 385 ), the Court said, “Because the bill at issue here was not one for raising revenue, it could not have been passed in violation of the Origination Clause.” The case cites Twin City v Nebeker (176 US 196 ), where the court said that “revenue bills are those that levy taxes, in the strict sense of the word.”
Yesterday, John Hinderaker at Power Line Blog posted an article explaining how recent actions by President Trump are restoring that constitutional principle. On Thursday, President Trump announced that he was ending payments to insurance companies that were implemented by Executive Order under ObamaCare. Since the payments were never approved by the House of Representatives, the payments were illegal and should never have begun in the first place. The Obama Administration had made those payments.
The article at Power Line states:
Liberal news outlets are offering a parade of horribles that will ensue if the federal government doesn’t continue to pay off insurance companies. In most cases, they pay little or no attention to the constitutional issue at stake. Whether such consequences will result is not so clear. Chris Jacobs points out:
For the time being, individuals likely will not see any direct effects from the payments ceasing. Carriers cannot exit Exchanges mid-year, and contracts for the 2018 plan year are already signed. (A provision in carriers’ 2017 and 2018 contracts lets them exit Exchanges if enrollees do not receive cost-sharing reductions—not if the insurers themselves do not receive reimbursement for those cost-sharing reductions. This clause, awkwardly drafted by insurers’ counsel, may provide them with little legal recourse—and further highlights their questionable assumptions and behavior surrounding the subsidies.) So maybe—just maybe—Washington can spend some time focusing on the real issue behind the Administration’s action: Upholding the Constitution.
If Congress wants to continue the subsidies, it can do so. Its appropriation, obviously, will make them constitutional. But regardless of what happens from now on, the Trump administration has acted admirably by refusing to go along with the unconstitutional regime that Barack Obama instituted.
This is not about politics–it is about following the U.S. Constitution as the law of the land.