The President vs. the Speaker of the House

The President chooses who will be the Fed Chairman and thereby chooses which economic school of thought will be running the Fed.

The House of Representatives has the final say on all spending bills and the Speaker decides which spending bills come up for a vote and which bills will never be voted on (or do I have that part wrong?).

Obviously each of them has influence over economic matters, but who has the more powerful voice in the day-to-day running of the economy - the President or the Speaker?

Congress controls the country’s purse strings. It’s arguably the most significant power given to them by the Constitution. Ultimately, all the President can do is say yes or no to what Congress gives him. He can shut the government down (as Clinton did in '93), but he can’t spend or cut anything on his own (and even Presidential votes can be overridden).

As English and later British monarchs learned, power of the purse is extremely potent. When the legislature wields it strongly the President has little power to do much of anything. In the real world the President is usually in a strong enough political position and has enough supporters in the legislature that he wields a large amount of power.

So in theory Congress has the most power over the economy, in practice the President probably wields more because the President’s budget proposals tend to be approved with him getting most of what he wants.

The Speaker of the House doesn’t compare well 1 on 1 to the President, though. The Speaker isn’t especially powerful since budget approvals like all legislation are based on majority votes and the Speaker only has the power of cajoling when it comes to how the House is going to respond to something.

In almost any given matter, Congress as a whole has more power than the President, but the President has more power than any single member of Congress (including the majority leader of either house). Of course, the majority leaders tend to get their way, because by definition, they’ve got a lot of other congress-critters who agree with them on most issues.

Quoth Dio:

Wasn’t that Gingrich’s (and the rest of congress’) doing, not Clinton’s?

1995, first of all, not 1993. And it was Clinton who vetoed the continuing resolution that would have kept the government open. Whether you think he was right or wrong to do that, of course, is a matter of opinion.

1995, yes, thank you. and I guess the question of who shut the government down is somewhat subjective, but I said Clinton because his veto is what most directly did it. I personally think he was right to do it, but I would still sayhe was the one who did it.

I confess that I often find myself wishing that Obama had Clinton’s balls, No matter how many interns he he shagged, he never let himself be the Republicans’ bitch.

As an aside (and I don’t mean this to be a hijack but think it is relevant) just how granular can Congress be when approving the budget?

By that I mean it is one thing for them to approve a new aircraft carrier but another for them to say the ship should only have 50 DVDs to choose from instead of 100 for the sailors to choose in their off-hours for recreation.

Where is the line drawn?

Congress can be as granular as they want. That’s what the whole earmarks debate is about. An earmark is a provision in the budget saying that the money should be spent for a specific purpose.

Yes, Congress can be as specific and granular as it wants to be. That’s why Presidents always used to beg for a line item veto. Clinton finally got one in 1996 but it was found unconstitutinal by the Supreme Court in 1998. Now it can only be changed by a Constitutional amendment. Right now, the Prez has to sign or veto the whole thing in toto, and there are no limits on how finely Congress can designate spending.

The Senate has a hell of a lot of say on that, though, so I don’t think I’d say that the Speaker per se has more power than the President does. Congress in toto, yes. The Speaker alone, no.

Both of these are congress saying “spend money on this”.

That is different than saying, “we’ll give you $2 billion for an aircraft carrier but no money for DVDs.”

Withholding money is different than saying money must be spent on “X”.

Congress can also order money notbe spent on X. They blocked Obama from closing Gitmo by forbidding him from using DOJ funds to transfer the prisoners to the US, for example.