Thursday, October 3, 2013

Who is shutting down the government?

First, does the US House of Representatives have the power of the purse?  No, it has the obligation to originate "revenue" bills.  And here a big rule of thumb in negotiation should be noted.  He who goes first, loses.  At best, being first guarantees nothing.  He who goes first, and who also also wants things to continue, aims to please who comes next by exercising self-selection of his own extreme impulses.  That's a big part of the losing aspect of going first. The one who goes first must aim to please.  Those who come later can simply say no if they feel too disadvantaged to even make a counter-offer.  If no counter is made, the originator can only guess where the boundaries are, i.e., the bottom line, and then has to exercise even more self-selction next time bit with no new information for guidance.  By going first in a negotiation, one is giving information about one's own boundaries, but not necessarily getting any information in return.  That is why a common negotiation strategy is simply to refuse to negotiate.  To negotiate means to be willing to give up something, which is what a first offer must always do.  So negotiation stalls when no one is willing to make this first offer.  But the US Constitution is clear about who must make the first offer with regards to revenue bills.

And the plain text of the constitution says nothing about the House originating "spending" bills, that's simply been a precedent maintained by the House by never passing spending bills which originated in the Senate, and claiming justification by the Federalist Papers--which are not part of US law and have no legal standing.

OK, so what is a federal budget supposed to do?  Well, cover the bills!  Avoid waste.  Avoid undue exploitation.  But it not the normal way to change law. There is a separate procedure for changing laws--the same as passing new ones.  It requires approval of both chambers and the President, unless the presidential veto is overridden, which requires a 2/3 majority of both chambers.  This is by design a somewhat cumbersome procedure, which follows a conservative--as in actually conserving what has come before, not overstepping, etc.--philosophy.

So if changing law through the budget is permitted at all--it's an extreme tactic, especially when one chamber of Congress is also trying to do this alone.  It takes extremists to do it.  The normal thing for a budget it do the bills, not change law.

And if changing law through the budget is extreme, how about shutting down the government also, or knowing well that would happen, and keeping it going after the first failure.

I'd say the onus is upon the extremists.  They are the ones shutting down the government.  Those who are trying to use the budget to change the law, knowing they only have leadership control (and even not necessarily majoritarian support within)  of one of three governmental entities that needs to (and actually does) approve of this change without an almost impossibly high bar for at least two entities.

With the lack of support by the Senate and President, shutting down the government, or even threatening to do so, is not simply being extreme.  It is uncivil, arsonistic, threatening to burn down the house if one doesn't get one's way.  The civil way to reach agreement with others is by give-and-take, through which everyone wins.  If arson is conceded to, only one party wins, others must simply capitulate or get burned along with everyone else.  It is dictatorship by terror.

This is only one of many reasons to conclude it is the Republicans in the US House who are shutting down the government, and that it would be anti-republican for them to succeed in getting their way through this tactic.

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