The Power of the Purse

THE POWER OF THE PURSE….Bruce Fein is a conservative legal scholar who long ago turned against George Bush. Here’s one of the reasons why:

Jan. 28, 2008, is a date that will live in congressional infamy. Congress surrendered the power of the purse over national security affairs to the White House.

President Bush appended a signing statement to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 denying the power of Congress to withhold funds for establishing permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, or to control its oil resources. The statement tacitly averred that Congress was required to appropriate money to support every presidential national security gambit, for example, launching pre-emptive wars anywhere on the planet or breaking and entering homes to gather foreign intelligence.

….The National Defense Authorization Act’s restrictions on President Bush in Iraq were no novelty. Congress has repeatedly legislated to constrain the president’s projection of the military abroad or has otherwise overridden his national security policies.

….Yet Congress acquiesced….

Bush has appended so many signing statement to so many bills that this one got only a smidgen of extra attention at the time. All part of Bush fatigue, I guess. But it really deserves more. The appropriations power is fundamental to congressional authority, and this was an unusually direct affront to that authority even for the current crew in the White House. If Congress doesn’t have the power of the purse, what does it have?

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