The Supreme Court has only recently emphasized that those procedures must be followed precisely. In Clinton v. New York City, 1998, (In which the court found the line-item veto as passed by Congress unconstitutional), Justice Stevens wrote the majority opinion:
"The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 is a 500-page document that became 'Public Law 105-33' after three procedural steps were taken: (1) a bill containing its exact text was approved by a majority of the Members of the House of Representatives; (2) the Senate approved precisely the same text; and (3) that text was signed into law by the President. The Constitution explicitly requires that each of those three steps be taken before a bill may 'become a law.'" Article I, Section 7.
And: "The procedures governing the enactment of statutes set forth in the text of Article I were the product of the great debates and compromises that produced the Constitution itself. Familiar historical materials provide abundant support for the conclusion that the power to enact statutes may only 'be exercised in accord with a single, finely wrought and exhaustively considered, procedure.' Chadha, 462 U.S., at 951."
Some have argued that the "Gephardt Rule" (House Rule XXVII) -- in which a similar "self-executing rule" "deemed" the House to have voted on a new debt ceiling, is valid precedent. Wrong. That rule was for a joint resolution -- not a bill. A joint resolution is a guide to the House. It is not a bill under the Constitution and has no force of law. Because a president has nothing to do with a resolution, a self-executing rule is valid for a resolution, but not for a bill.
It speaks to the sturdiness of the system our founders installed that it is, as intended, so resistant to passing major legal and cultural changes against the overwhelming will of the public. So resistant that, in frustration, the Democratic speaker of the House has been driven to consider breaking her oath of office and violate the Constitution in order to get her way. Presumably, when she is better counseled, she will dismiss this wayward idea.
Should she follow through on her threat, however, the product would not be a law, but a nullity -- an aborted, inert thing.
It would be, in essence, an attempted congressional putsch against the Constitution.
But still our governing system would not be broken as long as the president would do his constitutional duty -- as assuredly he would -- and neither sign nor veto it, but rather, publicly declare it a nullity, tear it up and burn it, as one would a piece of trash.
I refuse to conjecture on any alternative action by the president.
In other news, the White House spokesman last week engaged in an indecorous public exchange with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.
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