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.

[Cross-posted at A plain blog about politics]

Jonathan Bernstein

Jonathan Bernstein is a political scientist who writes about American politics, especially the presidency, Congress, parties, and elections.