Due to a spontaneous eruption of political desperation on my part, I donated to Alan Grayson’s 2010 campaign to retain his Florida seat in the House of Representatives.
He lost that seat. Shame has fallen like dead locusts on the heads of his constituents. But they have a chance to elect someone who actually represents them in the 21st Century, because Grayson is now working to win that seat back.
Because Grayson had a gift of making incendiary speeches on the House floor, he got knocked a lot for being what the right wing called “crazy.”(This is what my mom used to describe as “That’s the pot calling the kettle black.”) Grayson is a shining silver kettle. He was and is one of those rare politicians who speaks out without considering whether his direct comments will one day bar him from the White House.
He is also very, very funny. He could be my next best friend. Other things about him: he is devastatingly smart (Harvard, I believe — uh oh, one of those Northeast elites!), a terrific writer with a sharp satirical eye, and always piercingly honest. So I really love reading his internet stuff and apparently he knows it, because he’s kept me on his e-mail list.
Today I got this from him, and since it’s about the Constitution and law, it falls onto the wide lap of Sidebar:
When I was up in DC a week ago, visiting the Floor of the House, I asked one Democratic member what she thought about the Republicans being in charge. Her answer was interesting to me. “They want to do all these things that are unconstitutional. It’s as though they’ve never heard of the Constitution.”
I really hadn’t thought of it that way. Cruel? Yes. Bigoted? Yes. But unconstitutional?
I realized that she probably was referring to this gross obsession over what the federal deficit might or might not be in the year 2021, ten years from now.
Here is a simple fact, which seems to have eluded this tea-infused Congress. One Congress cannot dictate to any other Congress. Particularly when it comes to taxing and spending. So all of this gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over what the federal deficit might be in ten years is utterly – utterly – pointless. It’s like trying to amend the law of gravity.
Under Article I, Section 7 of our Constitution, each Congress has the same right as another other Congress to legislate. This includes “raising Revenue” and “Appropriation of Money.” (The Founding Fathers were pretty wacky when it came to initial caps, weren’t they?) So our 112th Congress can “pass a Bill” setting the federal deficit for this year and next year, but that’s about it. Anything that goes beyond the first week of January, 2013, when the 113th Congress will be sworn in, is subject to change by that Congress, and every subsequent Congress.
The Constitution also has this to say on the subject, in Article I, Section 8: “no Appropriation of Money [to raise and support Armies] shall be for a longer Term of two Years.” (Which tells us precisely what the Founding Fathers would have thought about a 10-year war in Afghanistan and an 8-year war in Iraq, but that is another story.)