View Full Version : Conditions on Iraq funding: Const. crisis? Or preeminence of Congress' purse power?
02-18-2007, 06:36 AM
Rep. Murtha, with Speaker Pelosi's support, is planning to attach a pile of conditions (http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07047/762608-84.stm) to the next Iraq funding measure:
Mr. Murtha, chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, plans to attach his requirements in coming weeks to the administration's $93.4 billion request for extra war money. His actions are likely to spark a heated dispute with congressional Republicans and the White House.
In addition to training and equipment standards, Mr. Murtha's proposal calls for units to get at least one year at home between tours overseas, no deployments lasting more than a year and an end to the "stop-loss" program that lets the military recall troops who have completed their enlistment commitments.He might even attach a condition forcing the closure of Gitmo.
This debate's not about the advisibility of such a measure; it's about the ground it stands on. This measure would obviously put some rather distinct limits on the President's power to conduct this particular war as he sees fit.
According to Joe Lieberman (http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/archives/012517.php), this would produce a Constitutional crisis, due to the extent that it would limit the President's freedom of movement.
I don't see that. It may or may not be what Congress should do, but I believe Murtha's standing on firm ground in saying they can do it. Congress' power of the purse is all but unlimited: if they don't want to fund something, they don't have to. And implicit in the power to fund or not to fund, is the power to fund subject to conditions.
While it's true that, for a little while, the President could probably borrow a few billion here, and a few billion there, from other DoD accounts, but ISTM that that's the extent of his response; it would be pretty damned hard to get $93B that way.
No Constitutional crisis. If Congress goes down this path, Congress' Article I powers trump the President's Article II powers.
02-18-2007, 03:31 PM
I don't see that this is a constitutional crisis, but even if one thinks there might be, it seems obvious how it would play out. The president can't just take the money from the treasury (can he?) and I can't see that this would end up in the SCOTUS. Unfortunately for Bush, he's is S.O.L. on this one if Congress chooses to act this way. Now, I don't know how Murtha's measure can make it thru the Senate, but that's another issue.
02-18-2007, 05:16 PM
Well, the Senate might well depend on when this is introduced. If Murtha's bill goes up after several Iraq resolutions with increasing Republican support, indicating that the Senators up for reelection in 2008 need some anti-war votes for their record, it might well have a chance. If it comes next week, no way in hell. The problem is that a simple majority is insufficient to pass anything remotely controversial in the Senate; Republicans can afford to lose four or five people and still have enough votes to prevent cloture.
02-18-2007, 05:44 PM
I'm pretty sure there's SCOTUS dicta that indicates that Congress can constitutionally limit funds for a war in progress. I'll try to find it.
02-18-2007, 06:12 PM
I'm thinking of dicta from Bas v. Tigny, 4 U.S. 37 (1800). The case is cited in this informative letter (http://www.house.gov/list/press/or01_wu/pr01172007Iraqpowers.html) from constitutional scholars.
02-18-2007, 06:24 PM
The president can't just take the money from the treasury (can he?)I hadn't meant to raise it here, but it would be interesting to know exactly how the actual nitty-gritty of the getting of money works, and whether a runaway executive could somehow hijack that process. and I can't see that this would end up in the SCOTUS. Agreed. Now, I don't know how Murtha's measure can make it thru the Senate, but that's another issue. Remember that the shoe's on the other foot here: if no bill passes both houses of Congress and gets signed by the President, then funding for the war runs out at the end of September. So if Murtha can get his bill through the House, the Senate Republicans can go along, or risk de-funding the war entirely. They could always amend Murtha's bill and negotiate with the House, but the House has the high cards in this negotiation.
Diogenes the Cynic
02-18-2007, 06:33 PM
According to Joe Lieberman, this would produce a Constitutional crisis, due to the extent that it would limit the President's freedom of movement.
Congress is SUPPOSED to limit the President's freedom of movement.
02-18-2007, 09:06 PM
Remember that the shoe's on the other foot here: if no bill passes both houses of Congress and gets signed by the President, then funding for the war runs out at the end of September. So if Murtha can get his bill through the House, the Senate Republicans can go along, or risk de-funding the war entirely. They could always amend Murtha's bill and negotiate with the House, but the House has the high cards in this negotiation.
They'll have to compromise, just as they are doing now on the MW bill.
02-18-2007, 09:12 PM
My understanding is that basically congress provides funding for the military, but its' the executive's responsibility to actually make military decisions. When the atomic bomb was dropped, it was Truman who made the go/no go decision - not congress. So for congress to micro-manage the military by tying funds to demands for certain military policies to be implemented is a problem.
However, I'm not a constitutional expert, so I don't know what the exact mechanism is. But I've heard a few discussions by people who should know, and everyone seems to think that at the very least it's a stretch. However, there is precedent - I believe Congress cut off funding for B-52 bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam war.
Watching 'This Week with George Stephanopoulis' today, the issue came up during the round table. All agree that the constitutional grounds were shakey, but by no means certain. George Will made the comment that if the issue was taken to the Supreme Court, they'd just throw it back to the legislature and say, "Solve this yourself." It seemed that Stephanopoulis and Fareed Zakaria basically agreed with that.
02-19-2007, 05:46 AM
They'll have to compromise, just as they are doing now on the MW bill.As I said, shoe's on the other foot.
With the minimum wage bill, the Dems need to pass a bill to get what they want: an increase in the MW. So they've got to compromise to please people who don't want it to pass, and can block the bill.
(Personally, I think even that is false, but that's a whole 'nother debate. For purposes of this thread, we can treat it as true.)
With the Iraq war funding bill, Bush and the GOP need it to pass, or they don't have a war anymore. So they have to compromise to please people who are capable of blocking it.
If 218 House Dems can hang together on the conditions they want to attach to this bill, they don't have to compromise with anyone.
02-19-2007, 05:58 AM
Watching 'This Week with George Stephanopoulis' today, the issue came up during the round table. All agree that the constitutional grounds were shakey, but by no means certain. George Will made the comment that if the issue was taken to the Supreme Court, they'd just throw it back to the legislature and say, "Solve this yourself." It seemed that Stephanopoulis and Fareed Zakaria basically agreed with that. Which essentially resolves the issue.
First of all, neither the Congress nor the Executive will appeal to the Supremes to referee their conflict; they're both jealous of their prerogatives, and aren't going to give the Supremes jurisdiction over such disputes.
Second, the Supremes would just throw it back.
Either way, we're back at square one, which is Congress' inviolable, unappealable power of the purse. If they say that the President can't have this money unless he stands on his head in the middle of the Ellipse, then the President can't have this money unless...you get the idea.
The answer to Congress' abuse of its power of the purse is the election of the entire House (where all spending bills originate, under the Constitution) in another 21 months. If the Congress uses that power to hamstring the President and the people don't like it, then they can throw the bums out. If the people see it as Congress' best of a limited set of options to rein in a runaway Executive, then they can re-elect the lot of them.
02-19-2007, 04:57 PM
I like the part where the tighties complain, ignorantly and even a touch slanderously, that anything Congress might consider doing about Iraq would be "micromanaging". No, Sam, micromanaging would be Lyndon Johnson personally picking airstrike targets in Vietnam. Ordering an end to a war altogether would be macromanaging.
Do look up the US Constitution sometime, and note upon which branch is conferred the power to declare war, and, by inevitable implication, end it.
02-19-2007, 07:30 PM
The Congress shall have Power...
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
02-19-2007, 07:33 PM
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces; Seems like this, in and of itself, allows the sort of 'micromanaging' of the active-duty military that Murtha proposes.
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States Ditto this, with respect to the National Guard.
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