Friday, April 20, 2012

The Looniest Talking Point Ever (And Palin's Got It)

We have a winner.

If you had asked me before what the craziest conservative talking point was, it had to be the czars. After all, this was a case of taking something around for decades and claiming it was some sort of new threat to the republic. Plus it came with fun side idiocy, such as the whole czars-as-socialists thing.

But that was then, and this is now, and we have a new champ: that Barack Obama is violating the Constitution by...Congress not passing a budget resolution.

This is, to put it mildly 100% full-on nuts.

I'd been hearing this one for a while now, so it's out there for sure, but it wasn't worth a post until the Sage of Wasilla took to Fox News to repeat it, as Seth Masket notes. Here's Palin's version of it:

And the number one thing, Greta, that he is responsible for is -- he today violating Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7 of the United States Constitution in not having a budget. Going on three years, over a thousand days with no budget, no blueprint to run our federal government!
Yeah. Problem number one with this theory, as Seth sort of gets at, is that the president isn't involved at all in budget resolutions. Budget resolutions aren't law; they are, well, Congressional resolutions (technically, concurrent resolutions). No presidential signature needed. So while it might be unfair to blame Congress for a law not getting passed, it's really silly season to blame him for the lack of a budget resolution. His job, under the law, is to present a budget to Congress. He's done that.

But the main point here is that of course the Constitution doesn't require a Congressional budget resolution, because those were only invented in the 1974 Budget Act. So it would be strange indeed if the Framers had mentioned it.

What does Article I Section 9 Clause 7 actually say? "No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time." The first half of this is the executive branch can't spend without appropriations, but of course Congress has (eventually) passed appropriations bills every year, so that's not a problem; Barack Obama is threatening to shut down the government if Congress gives him approps bills that he'll veto, not keep it running based on whatever he wants to spend. As for the second half...well, the executive branch does, indeed, publish such statements. Here, I can even link to them.

Apparently the strength of the basic talking point -- that it's a horrible thing that Congress hasn't passed a budget resolution -- is based on the idea that without one, the government is just spending willy-nilly and has no idea what it's taking in or what's going out. But of course that's not true at all. Nor is it true that the government is operating without a budget; it's operating under the Budget Control Act, which is (unlike a budget resolution) actually a binding law, one that was passed by Congress and signed by the President of the United States. So the "hasn't passed a budget" thing is phony to begin with. But that it violates the Constitution? Completely bonkers.


  1. I've been watching this talking point for quite a while. It started off as a bash against the Senate Dems in particular and Dems in general I guess. The point was that the House GOP were DOING THEIR JOBS and passing stuff like a budget resolution, but the Senate wasn't acting on anything. It was a counterargument to the idea that the GOP was the party of No and obstructionists. See, they aren't obstructionists--they're the only ones who passed a budget resolution.

    It's mostly been used by low-information hacks on comment boards and probably hasn't swayed anyone. Palin deserves the prize, but is it fair to anyone else if she's in the contest? Oh, and does anyone think she did her own research on this to find the article in the constitution? However, she's still the pick of some brain-dead commenters on other blogs.

  2. On a related note:

    When the House passed the Ryan Budget Resolution... what is that exactly?

    It's not an actual appropriations bill with actual budget numbers, right?

    And it's not even a tax policy bill that would specify tax rates and deduction eliminations, right?

    So, what is it? Suppose the Senate also passed it and the President signed it... then what?

    1. It wouldn't be signed by the president in any event. The budget resolution is an internal congressional document that is intended to set guidelines for subsequent appropriations and tax bills. Those bills are the ones that matter.

  3. Wow, that is kinda amazing. I wrote earlier in a comment about how poor journalist standards and wanting to never say you were wrong are types of press biases that are worse, to me anyway, than ideological or partisan biases. I have to say this type of thing is a good example of that. All a casual viewer would learn anything from this is "Obama bad". I know asking for a cable news channel to talk about how the federal appropriations process works would be far to much but can't we at least try to inform people at some level? It reminds me of those years of fox news reporting on Iraq that consisted of a well dress man with sharp glasses standing on a roof in the green zone reading pentagon press releases. Its not really journalism at all.


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