James Madison called it “a powerful instrument” and a “most complete and effectual weapon” in the hands of Congress, giving them authority over the other two branches of government. And that power was control of the purse strings of the country.
As the Constitution clearly spells out, “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law,” and all lawmaking power is vested in Congress and Congress alone.
Consider what Madison wrote in Federalist No. 58:
“The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose, the supplies requisite for the support of government. They, in a word, hold the purse, that powerful instrument by which we behold … an infant and humble representation of the people gradually enlarging the sphere of its activity and importance, and finally reducing, as far as it seems to have wished, all the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of the government. This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”
It is clear that the Founders intended Congress to be the strongest of the three branches of government, yet it has also become the most political, which has greatly weakened it over time. To keep from having to make tough decisions, the politicians who fill Congress have abdicated their constitutional responsibilities to the executive and judicial branches.
Executive orders and Supreme Court “decisions” now have the force of law, while federal agencies issue regulation after regulation, with very little if any oversight, routinely defy Congress by withholding information, and generally do whatever they want, even though Congress created each one. This is a case of children reining over the lives of their parents.
But that’s the way the politicians want it – punt critical decisions to the White House and the courts, while they raise money for their next campaign. We can’t expect our elected representatives to be burdened with tough decisions affecting the country, now can we?
Committee hearings have taken on an atmosphere of a sideshow, if not a circus, whereby the members are only interested in being seen on television for a 15-second soundbite they can play endlessly back home in the district. Nothing ever emerges from these daily, seemingly endless hearings – no reforms enacted nor any penalties for government overreach. It has become an exercise in futility.
If Congress would act as it was intended, most of the problems we face today would disappear quickly. Should Republicans retake Congress, the majority should finally behave like one and implement a complete overhaul of federal departments and agencies by imposing a moratorium on new regulations, review regulations in existence to determine which ones should be allowed to remain and put those to a floor vote, then finally require all new regulations to be approved by congressional vote before they have the force of law.
Congress should then conduct serious oversight hearings and use their best weapon against stubborn federal agencies, like the FBI, which has acted in an unlawful manner for years, mainly against Republicans. Congress should demand answers and if they don’t get those answers, withhold the FBI’s budget until they do.
In other words, Congress should take full control over the agencies they created and of the entire federal budget, and jealously guard their constitutional prerogatives. They should, in essence, enforce the Golden Rule: “He who has the gold makes the rules.”
Impeachment and removal of officials from office is not an easy task, so Madison’s weapon is much easier to deploy in order to reform the executive branch. Republicans should hold a series of hearings, looking into FBI malfeasance, who instigated and funded the BLM/Antifa riots, and the real story behind the efforts to frame Trump before he took office. And they probably should hold their own January 6th hearings and get the truth behind that as well.
If any federal agencies refuse to comply, which likely would be the case, they lose ALL of their funding until they do. If that doesn’t do the trick, then Congress can simply abolish those agencies altogether. Talk about an attention getter!
But it takes courage to do this and that remains to be seen if any leading Republican actually has any. So let us wait … and hope once again.
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