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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.

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