Issue: H.R. 4745 Making appropriations for the Departments of Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2015, and for other purposes. Sponsor: Rep. Tom Latham (IA-03).
Result: Passed in House 229 to 192, 10 not voting. Republicans scored.
Bill Summary: If approved by the Senate and the president, H.R. 4745 would appropriate $17 billion in discretionary spending to the Department of Transportation and $40.3 billion to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Analysis: H.R. 4745 proposes to spend $1.8 billion less, due to an offset, in FY 2015 than in fiscal year 2014, and $7.8 billion below the President’s budget request, therefore drawing the strong opposition of the Obama White House: [H.R. 4745] “fails to make needed investments in our Nation’s infrastructure, provides insufficient support for critical housing programs for low-income Americans and the homeless, and includes objectionable language provisions.”
The White House opposition serves to make the House Republicans appear fiscally conservative, whereas in reality the proposed cuts amount to less than 3 percent (compared to the previous year) in a measure that approves massive unconstitutional federal spending (e.g., HUD, see below). If history is a guide, the House will not insist even on these modest cuts, but will compromise upward in an omnibus appropriations measure later.
Department of Housing and Urban Development [HUD]
The Cabinet-level Housing and Urban Development Department was created in 1965 under the umbrella of President Johnson’s Great Society program, a massive program of federal spending that would greatly encourage state and individual dependence on Washington. It’s assault on constitutional restraints was even more damaging. In the years since, neither major party has been willing to call for a reversal of this federal overreach.
For example, HUD would provide funds for urban renewal of cities and open the door for federal rent assistance to low-income families. The House-approved measure above included $6.2 billion for Community Planning and Development programs.
When the Department of Housing and Urban Development was created, the Arizona Republic protested:
“Nowhere does the U.S. Constitution give the federal government any control over urban affairs….
“Scarcely a week passes but some city or county department head goes from Phoenix to Washington to get the answer to a problem which, a few years ago, would have been solved in city hall or the court house.”
Norman Thomas, the Socialist Party leader, declared that he did not need to run for president in 1964, because Lyndon Johnson was carrying out his program. Regarding the Johnson “War on Poverty” program, Thomas declared: “I ought to rejoice and I do. I rub my eyes in amazement and surprise. His war on poverty is a Socialistic approach and may be the major issue of the 1964 campaign.”
Constitutional Authority Statement.
Congress typically uses misleading boiler plate language to give the appearance members are respecting the current House rule (Clause 7(c) of Rule XII) requiring that each bill or joint resolution introduced must be accompanied by a statement citing the constitutional authorization for such action. This game allows representatives to give the impression that their measures respect the Constitution.
The reality, however, is that most of our representatives are using phony boiler plate justifications that permit business as usual in support of a massive unconstitutional bureaucracy, while hoping that uninformed voters won’t catch on.
The constitutional authority statement accompanying this appropriations bill serves as a good example of the subterfuge:
“The principal constitutional authority for this legislation is clause 7 of section 9 of article I of the Constitution of the United States (the appropriation power), which states:
‘No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law . . . .’”
Citing this clause as justification is not only absurd, it’s intentionally deceptive. The above procedural clause merely insists that federal money can only be spent when supported by an enacted appropriations bill. It does not say that Congress is authorized to appropriate money for anything it chooses, which would mean no constitutional restraint at all.
The limited areas authorized by the Constitution for federal spending are spelled out in section 8 of article I. The sponsor’s authority statement continues by citing just the opening clause of that section:
“In addition, clause 1 of section 8 of article I of the Constitution (the spending power) provides:
‘The Congress shall have the Power … to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States….’
“Together, these specific constitutional provisions establish the congressional power of the purse, granting Congress the authority to appropriate funds, to determine their purpose, amount, and period of availability, and to set forth terms and conditions governing their use.” [Emphasis added.]
Incredible! The bill’s sponsor claims that the Constitution gives Congress the power to spend money as it wishes. But such an unlimited grant of authority would negate the very purpose of a Constitution.
Instead, the rest of section 8 lists the specific purposes for which federal spending is allowed. Although Congress may determine which of those purposes a particular appropriations bill supports, the Constitution does not allow Congress to invent new purposes without a Constitutional amendment.
We have assigned (good vote) to the Nays and (bad vote) to the Yeas. (P = voted present; ? = not voting; blank = not listed on roll call.)