Congress is less likely to decide major policy questions if the courts make it easy for politicians to evade responsibility for them.
The Cliff and the Clauses
So the House of Representatives can’t bring itself to pass a serviceable tax bill. Whereupon Vice President Biden and Senator McConnell cut some backroom deal, which the Senate passes by a lopsided margin. In the waning hours of the 112th Congress (history as of today), the House passes the bill, unamended, by a 257-167 vote (172 Democrats and 85 Republicans voting yes; 16 Democrats and 151 Republicans no).
Question: in what meaningful sense can this concoction—plainly, a “Bill for raising Revenue”—be said to have originated in the House of Representatives, as required by Art. I Sec. 7 of the Constitution? The answer, upon information and belief, is that the House on August 1, 2012 did pass, on a 256-171 party-line vote, the Republican-sponsored H.R. 8, which would have extended all of the Bush-era tax cuts. The Senate simply “amended” that bill, as explicitly permitted by Art. I Sec. 7. So you see, everything is in good constitutional order on the Hill. Thought you might want to know.
In other not-so-news, the fiscal “cliff” was actually a curbstone compared to the looming fiscal challenges. The masterpiece just enacted erects a whole series of additional clifflets, starting in late February: won’t that be fun! And, this will be the fourth year in a row (by my count—I may be off) without a legally required federal budget that legislators can actually look at and vote on.
“Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings.” Art. I Sec. 5 Cl. 2. Compared to the actual proceedings, the rules of the Star Wars bar would be a step up.