Amid the ongoing debate regarding the government shutdown, I feel that an essential part of the discussion is being ignored, and that is the constitutional angle.
It is particularly ironic that many of the same conservatives who urge a most literal interpretation of the U.S. Constitution when it comes to gun rights and similar topics are so staunchly supporting the government shutdown over the funding for a border wall.
Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the very same Constitution they are so eager to quote — also known as the Taxing and Spending Clause — specifically states that “The Congress shall have Power to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States.”
Article I, Section 9, Clause 7, also known as the “Appropriations Clause,” says “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.”
What would have happened if the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives would have refused to pass legislation funding the government until President Trump reimplements the Iran deal? The GOP and their conservative supporters would rightfully have cried foul, pointing out that the Constitution gives the president the authority to establish foreign policy.
The same argument is true in reverse. As part of its checks and balances, the Constitution gives the power of the purse to Congress, not to the president. It is high time for the Republicans to respect this fact.
This shutdown, which has created havoc in the lives of 800,000 people, has gone on far too long. Too many innocent families are being hurt, and too many devoted government workers rightfully feel that they are being mistreated. The fact that they eventually will be paid is little solace for those who live from paycheck to paycheck, and now have to borrow money to pay their rent and buy their groceries. If the president truly feels that this is a real national emergency, he has the right — and perhaps even the obligation — to use the authority given him by the Constitution to build the wall. If he can figure out a way to get the $5.7 billion out of the Mexico trade deal, he should go ahead and do so.
But this shutdown is not the solution.