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Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Constitution presents a small roadblock to Harry Reid

While Harry Reid focuses on all sorts of things other than the fact that the funding of the government ends this weekend and that taxes are set to increase on January 1, it turns out that even the House Democrats are balking at his run around the Constitution. The Constitution states quite clearly that all bills raising revenue must originate in the House, but the Senate Majority Leader either forgot about that or figured that it would be okay to ignore that provision with the new food safety bill.
A food safety bill that has burned up precious days of the Senate’s lame-duck session appears headed back to the chamber because Democrats violated a constitutional provision requiring that tax provisions originate in the House.

By pre-empting the House’s tax-writing authority, Senate Democrats appear to have touched off a power struggle with members of their own party in the House. The Senate passed the bill Tuesday, sending it to the House, but House Democrats are expected to use a procedure known as “blue slipping” to block the bill, according to House and Senate GOP aides.

The debacle could prove to be a major embarrassment for Senate Democrats, who sought Tuesday to make the relatively unknown bill a major political issue by sending out numerous news releases trumpeting its passage.

Section 107 of the bill includes a set of fees that are classified as revenue raisers, which are technically taxes under the Constitution. According to a House GOP leadership aide, that section has ruffled the feathers of Ways and Means Committee Democrats, who are expected to use the blue slip process to block completion of the bill.

“We understand there is a blue slip problem, and we expect the House to assert its rights under the Constitution to be the place where revenue bills begin,” the GOP aide said.

The blue slip could lead to one of two likely outcomes. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) could simply drop the issue and let the next session of Congress start from scratch, a strategy that would allow him time in the lame-duck session to tackle other last-minute priorities, such as the expiring 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, a long-term continuing resolution, an immigration bill and a repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay service members.

Or he could try to force the issue in the Senate after the House passes a new version of the bill. But in order to do that and still tackle the other issues, he would need a unanimous consent agreement to limit debate.

According to Senate GOP aides, a unanimous consent agreement is all but certain to be a nonstarter because the bill’s chief opponent, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), will not agree to such a deal.
If this were such a great bill, why couldn't Reid have waited for the House to pass it first? After all, his party has overwhelming control of the House until January. But in his eagerness to trumpet at least one achievement this week, he just let the Constitution slip his mind. Any surprise that Reid forgot about the Constitution?


Skay said...

Good for Coburn.

There seems to be a lot wrong with this bill and the House bill is even worse.

equitus said...

Add to that the fact that the localvores and organic foot fetishists hate this bill because the regulatory costs to their favorite small-scale growers could put them out of business, and the circular firing squad commences.

Pass the popcorn (Monsanto brand, please).

equitus said...

"organic foot fetishists" should have read "organic FOOD fetishists."

Boy is my face red.