The Senate’s refusal to consider the budget bills passed by the House of Representatives has contributed immensely to our current crisis (“Sequestration was Obama’s idea in the first place,” Commentary, Monday). It has been suggested that a determined minority could stymie our nonparliamentary system. There is ample reason, though, to think the Founders thought that in the system they constructed, such a result was extremely unlikely.
The oft-quoted phrase used to justify Senate inaction on the budget, “[A]ll bills raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives,” is belied by the second half of the same sentence, which reads “but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as in other Bills.” Furthermore, the Constitution specifies that a bill passed by both the House and the Senate becomes law unless the president vetoes it within 10 business days (i.e., a president’s refusal to “act” cannot derail duly passed legislation). It also specifies that if a presidential veto is cast, the originating house is required to reconsider the bill — and if that house overrides the veto, the other house is required to reconsider it. Refusal to act is not an option.
Thus, it could be construed that the Constitution implicitly requires any bill passed by one house of Congress to be considered and brought to a vote by the other house. In addition, both houses are required “to promote the general Welfare,” which, it can be argued, requires the passing of a budget.
By avoiding having to go on the record with debates, amendments and votes, the Senate leadership is shielding its members from the designed accountability to their constituents that normally would impel them to reach an accommodation. Sniping from the sidelines is no substitute for legislative deliberation.