Monday, February 20, 2012

US Constitution: Article 1, Section 7

Revenues, Vetos, & Overrides, Oh My!
"Section 7. All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill."

Section 7 starts out with an interesting tidbit of our nation's fiscal trivia. Namely, only the House of Representatives creates bills for raising revenue, aka taxes or other cash flow generating entities. So your tax bill is all the House's fault - but wait - a tax bill is still a law and must be passed by the Senate. The constitution explicitly provides an allowance for the Senate to come up with and/or agree with amendments to these bills (so, duh... it's a bill just like any other). And the Senators don't pass up an opportunity to amend the bills to better fit the desires of their constituents lobbyists. If the Senate tries to initiate a revenue bill (and it has, proving in a small way that sometimes these guys just ignore the Constitution!) the House sends them a "blue slip" - basically reminding the Senate that this is the House's job, thank you very much. Too bad we can't give the entire Congress a blue slip for the way they are running this country to remind them of their responsibilities.

After the founders cleared up who controls the money bills, they continued laying out the process for lawmaking. The second clause of Section 7 simply explains that for a bill to become a law it must be signed by the President. So if the President doesn't agree with the law and he doesn't want it to become law he has 10 days to return it to Congress and explain why he doesn't agree. If Congress can muster a 2/3 (66.7%) majority, they can override the veto. If he doesn't send the bill back in 10 days, poof! It becomes law without his signature (see below for a request for action). The exception to this is when Congress is about to adjourn. If they send the President a bill within 10 days of adjourning, the President can just sit on it until they leave and the bill dies. This second presidential maneuver is called a pocket veto - as in the President just puts the bill in his pocket and waits. In every case I can remember, the President telegraphs that he is going to veto a bill like a high school freshman quarterback aiming at his best friend in the receiving corp. So I have never really understood why Congress would send one of these bills up within 10 days of the end of their session. Really folks? I know there are some smart people up there, but this seems fairly elementary. If you have sufficient margins to pass a controversial bill in both houses, get it done 11 days before the session is over. Then the President has to at least put his objections on paper. That said, the pocket veto has been used multiple times by various Presidents. Congress never ceases to amaze.

The final clause of Section 7 basically rehashes the second clause but is applicable to the things that must be concurred on - presidential appointments, treaties, "National Pink & Purple Flowers Day" resolutions, etc. This is the last section in Article 1 that can be discussed with any brevity. If you thought the meat on this section's bones was a T-bone, Sections 8-10 are a whole side of beef.

REQUEST FOR ACTION: The Constitution is explicitly clear that Congress can pass a law without the President's signature in a few ways - 1) override a veto or 2) pass the bill and give the President 10 days to disagree. However, I can't find an example in which this has occurred. I'm not a legal scholar and I do not have the time to chase down all of the "slip laws" on all of the laws that have ever been passed. Slip laws are the step-by-step story of a bill as it becomes law including all of the committees through which it passed, votes, and it's signature - produced by the Archivist of the United State. I would really like to find an example or two out there of laws that were passed by Congress and ignored by the President for 10 days, therefore becoming law. If you find it, I will post a link to it here and credit you. You (for your effort) and I (for my blog) will become instantly famous as the only known source on "the internets" for this information. (The last sentence was a joke for those of you without a sense of humor.)

Updated with links to the other posts:
Constitution Basics
Article 1, Sections 1-3
Article 1, Sections 4-6

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