Saturday, July 3, 2010

To Fall This Far in 221 Years

The First Congress of the United States met for the first time on March 4, 1789 at Federal Hall, 26 Wall Street, in New York City. (Later on in its term, Congress, along with the President, moved to Philadelphia.) It took a while to achieve a quorum, and organize: the House of Representatives, with fifty-nine members, elected leaders on April 1, and the Senate, with twenty-one members plus the Vice President, organized itself on April 30, 1789. The Bill of Rights passed both Houses on September 25, 1789.

By Article I, section 7 of the Constitution, "all Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives . . ." There is a convenient summary of all legislation enacted by the First Congress at this wiki link, with further links to the bills themselves. From the list, you will see that the twenty-third act, passed on September 29, 1789, was the first budget of the new government. It consisted of a single paragraph, which I quote in full:

Chap. ⅩⅩⅢ.—An Act making Appropriations for the Service of the present year.

Section 1. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there be appropriated for the service of the present year, to be paid out of the monies which arise, either from the requisitions heretofore made upon the several states, or from the duties on impost and tonnage, the following sums, viz. A sum not exceeding two hundred and sixteen thousand dollars for defraying the expenses of the civil list, under the late and present government; a sum not exceeding one hundred and thirty-seven thousand dollars for defraying the expenses of the department of war; a sum not exceeding one hundred and ninety thousand dollars for discharging the warrants issued by the late board of treasury, and remaining unsatisfied; and a sum not exceeding ninety-six thousand dollars for paying the pensions to invalids.

Approved, September 29, 1789.
The total of the sums so appropriated was $639,000.00 -- approximately $16.1 million in today's dollars.

And now, 221 years later, we have the spectacle of a non-budget being "deemed" passed by the 111th Congress of the United States:
Last night, as part of a procedural vote on the emergency war supplemental bill, House Democrats attached a document that "deemed as passed" a non-existent $1.12 trillion budget. The execution of the "deeming" document allows Democrats to start spending money for Fiscal Year 2011 without the pesky constraints of a budget.

The procedural vote passed 215-210 with no Republicans voting in favor and 38 Democrats crossing the aisle to vote against deeming the faux budget resolution passed.

Never before -- since the creation of the Congressional budget process -- has the House failed to pass a budget, failed to propose a budget then deemed the non-existent budget as passed as a means to avoid a direct, recorded vote on a budget, but still allow Congress to spend taxpayer money.
And why would Congress even entertain, let alone consider and enact, such a patent charade? Because it allows those in the majority to claim in the fall elections that they did not vote to increase the deficit by enacting yet another out-of-balance budget:
House Budget Committee Ranking Member Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) warned this was the green light for Democrats to continue their out-of-control spending virtually unchecked.

"Facing a record deficit and a tidal wave of debt, House Democrats decided it was politically inconvenient to put forward a budget and account for their fiscal recklessness. With no priorities and no restraints, the spending, taxing, and borrowing will continue unchecked for the coming fiscal year," Ryan said. "The so-called ‘budget enforcement resolution’ enforces no budget, but instead provides a green light for the Appropriators to continue spending, exacerbating our looming fiscal crisis."
And -- oh, irony of ironies! -- the name of the Chairman of the House Budget Committee responsible for coming up with this dastardly scheme to avoid responsibility is: John Spratt. (As President Kennedy might remind us, "Jack" is a nickname for "John".) This Jack Spratt, however, acts the opposite of his namesake: he admitted on CSPAN (June 27, 2010), conceding the spinelessness of the Committee's ploy, "You can say that's a lack of courage." (Emphasis added.)

Please note: you have not read about this negative milestone in any of the so-called "major / mainstream media" -- because they are too partisan to understand the significance of anything not explained to them by the Democrats -- and the Democrats aren't talking about this.

For a fuller analysis of just what is wrong with the "non-budget of 2010", see this white paper produced by the Republicans on the House Committee on the Budget (also the source of my quote from "Jack" Spratt).

And that is how far this mighty Republic has fallen in the space of just 221 years. As we celebrate its birthday tomorrow, it would be well to use the occasion for calls back to responsibility and true representation on the part of our elected representatives. Do not let any politician from Congress whom you happen to hear speaking get away with this sham -- and remember in November: here is how House members voted on "deeming" the non-budget to have passed.


  1. I don't see how there could be 26 senators. That would imply 13 states. But neither North Carolina, nor Rhode Island had ratified by March of 1789, and New York had not yet recognized the existence of Vermont.

  2. Has anyone filed a legal challenge to this travesty?

    If not, why not?

  3. Right you are, OldCrusader: North Carolina ratified the Constitution in November 1789, as the 12th State, and Rhode Island became the 13th State in May 1790. (Vermont became the 14th State in March 1791 -- not in time for the First Congress.) I have corrected the text to reflect the fact that there were only 21 senators when the Senate first organized -- New York was dilatory in electing its two senators.

    Bluebird 272, as I have written in another post, the situation in Washington currently borders on anarchy. Each branch of the government does what it wants to do, with no fear of checks or balances from the other branches. Until the majority in Congress changes, its leadership will continually break the rules with impunity. And the Supreme Court's last word on the subject was that "it is a complete fiction to argue that an unconstitutional federal expenditure causes an individual federal taxpayer any measurable economic harm." (Hein v. Freedom From Religion Foundation, 551 U.S. 587, 593 [2007].)