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EDITORIAL: A ‘blue slip’ for amnesty
The Senate tries to enact a $459 billion tax increase
Question of the Day
House Republicans are desperate to find a way to kill the amnesty which the Senate dumped in their laps on their way home for the Fourth of July recess. Now that Congress is back in town the House must give this deeply wrong proposal the "blue slip."
That's the name for raising a point of order that returns a measure to the Senate as a violation of the Constitution's "origination clause," which says so plainly that a lawyer could understand it, "All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives."
This clearly applies: The amnesty bill originated in the Senate and includes many tax increases and "revenue enhancements." For example, Section 5105 of the bill imposes a tax on employers for employment visas, to raise $1.5 billion in revenue. Section 6 creates an immigration reform trust fund that collects revenue from 18 fees and penalties. This analysis was done by the House Ways and Means Committee. There's even a section dealing with Obamacare tax credits. The Congressional Budget Office added up these provisions and calculated that the immigration bill would raise $459 billion in revenue over a decade, with most of the money raised going straight into the general fund.
Rep. Steve Stockman, Texas Republican, is pushing House Speaker John A. Boehner to use the "blue slip" procedure. "Senate Democrats were so determined to dispense a gift to radical political activists they didn't bother to check whether it was even legal," said Mr. Stockman. "They got caught trying to sneak an illegal bill past the Constitution's borders."
The Gang of Eight will have a hard time sneaking past the sheriff in this debate. The House Ways and Means Committee has exclusive jurisdiction over any measure "carrying a tax or tariff." Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, the panel chairman, says neither he nor the House can take up the Senate bill because it's unconstitutional. "The House will have to consider its own legislation," Mr. Camp says.
This is more than a mere technicality. The Founders borrowed the British practice of enabling only the House of Commons to introduce revenue bills. They believed the body most directly accountable to the public — one elected every two years — should hold the public's purse strings. "Should the [members of the Senate] have the power of giving away the people's money," George Mason told the delegates at the constitutional convention, "they might soon forget the source from whence they received it. We might soon have an aristocracy."
The Senate is certainly no aristocracy, although senators often act as if it were. The 1,200-page immigration bill was concocted behind closed doors by a mere handful of the chamber's lawmakers. Once their handiwork was complete it was rushed to the floor for a vote with such haste that neither rank-and-file members nor the public had a chance to read and understand it. Someone might have noticed the tax increases.
The House could take the path of least resistance, avoiding conflict by ignoring what the Senate did and taking up its own reform proposals. There's certainly no shortage of things that it could do to make the border secure and to attract the world's best and brightest to come to this country. This would be a futile exercise, since these good ideas would most likely wind up in the legislative graveyard the Senate has become since Sen. Harry Reid was elected chief gravedigger.
The smart move for the House would be to send a message that the Constitution still matters. A "blue slip" resolution is privileged. That means once the Senate formally transmits the immigration bill to the House, any member can bring the "return to sender" resolution to an immediate vote. Doing that with the amnesty bill might persuade the embarrassed Senate leadership to think twice before sending over another piece of legislation no senator has read.
The Washington Times
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