« BACK  |  PRINT

RS

MEMBER DIARY

Is the Supercommittee Constitutional?

I believe Rep. Ron Paul is correct about the unconstitutionality of the debt-limit supercommittee, although I found his particular reasons for saying so a little hazy.

Normally, and quite naturally, a bill must be introduced by a  member of the House or Senate for it to be taken under consideration by that chamber; the process must begin in one or the other chamber, by an action taken by a member of that chamber.  The bill can then go through committee, go to the chamber floor, be debated, amended, voted on, and, if passed, then sent to the other chamber, where it can again be debated, amended, voted on, and if passed, then reconciled with the other chamber’s version, voted again by both chambers, and if they then both agree on the same version,  then sent to the President for his/her signature or veto.  But the bill must begin its life in one or the other of the two constitutionally mandated chambers.

But with this supercommittee,  a bill will not be introduced into either the House chamber or the Senate chamber, but will entirely be a construct of the supercommittee.  Both chambers will then be forced to vote on the legislation determined by the supercommittee.  We will have legislation being voted on by both chambers, of which neither chamber is the author or orginator.  And while neither chamber is the author of the bill, both chambers will have no choice but to vote on the bill, as is, with no amendments allowed.  This supercommittee is not therefore providing the chambers a recommendation, it is handing out a decree: accept this bill, or enact pre-determined “triggers.”  

What the debt limit extension bill created then was not a “supercommittee,” but a new “superchamber” of the Legislative branch.  It has powers conferred on it that neither the House or Senate has.  It can proscribe, prescribe, and constrain the options of the constitutionally mandated chambers; it can decree which of two legislative options the Legislative Branch is allowed to produce.   Even in the act of doing nothing it can force the other two chambers to take a prescibed course of action. 

 In additon, the constitution mandates that all revenue bills must originate in the House.  This committee, however, also has the power to “recommend” revenue increases.   The House and Senate will then both be forced to vote on these revenue increases irrespective of what the other chamber has done.  This is not how the constitution prescibes the process:  the House is supposed to vote on and pass a bill relating to revenue increases, and only then can the Senate take up, vote on and amend such a bill.  There is not a provision for another “superchamber” to force the introduction of revenue bills  into the other two chambers simultaneously.

This supercommittee seems not only unconstitutional in spirit, but unconstitutional in fact.  I’m surprised this hasn’t raised more alarms among conservatives.  House Republicans pledged to site the constitutional authority for all legislation when they took power in January; I wonder what section of the Constitution was sited in the Boehner bill in order to justify the creation of this new extra-constitutional entity?

Get Alerts