This column presents facts regarding the United States Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Wisconsin State Constitution, and various other documents in reference to modern topics. Mark hopes to encourage interest in those works so that others can consider whether our government is practicing within its constitutional limits. In the last category, he may indicate his opinion. Mark is a resident of New Berlin. Readers are encouraged to visit the following sites for more information on the United States Constitution and Thomas Jefferson's views on politics and government.
Washington – Congress approved a $9.7 billion aid bill for victims of Superstorm Sandy on Friday, amid a gusty debate between those who say Congress must ultimately approve a total of $60 billion to help communities rebuild and those who warn the aid package is festooned with unnecessary and costly items.
Sandy left 120 dead and thousands homeless in the densely populated Northeast, and lawmakers from New York and New Jersey called Friday on Congress to swiftly approve the rest of the aid.
"To be a bride left at the altar once is bad enough. To be left at the altar twice would unconscionable," Sen. Chuck Schumer, the New York Democrat, said Friday. "And so we need the House to move forward and pass the full $60 billion."
But House conservatives continued to object to more government spending without spending cuts to offset it. Sixty-seven of them voted Friday against the Sandy package, which replenishes the National Flood Insurance Program that was due to run out of money next week. And fiscal watchdog groups pointed out that plenty of items in the earlier Senate bill -- a version of which would presumably make up the $51 billion House bill -- were not necessarily specific to Sandy, or even the battered East Coast.
"Considering that as part of the fiscal cliff the nation is facing nearly $110 billion in across-the-board cuts in 2013 alone, it doesn't make sense to churn out a business-as-usual, wasteful $60 billion emergency supplemental stuffed with non-emergency funding," the group Taxpayers for Common Sense said in a written statement.
The Senate bill included a $4 million repair job at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
It also included $150 million for fishery disasters in a range of states -- including Alaska and Mississippi. Along those lines, the bill included $821 million for dredging projects nationwide in natural disaster areas, but not necessarily those affected by Sandy.
Some of this spending, it can be argued, is related to Sandy, but not the kind of direct emergency aid that some lawmakers make it out to be. For instance, nearly $45 million was included for work on NOAA's hurricane reconnaissance aircraft.
Congress and The president vs. The Constitution
Originally published in “The Life of Colonel David Crockett,”
by Edward Sylvester Ellis.
One day in the House of Representatives a bill was taken up appropriating money for the benefit of a widow of a distinguished naval officer. Several beautiful speeches had been made in its support. The Speaker was just about to put the question when Crockett arose:
“Mr. Speaker–I have as much respect for the memory of the deceased, and as much sympathy for the sufferings of the living, if suffering there be, as any man in this House, but we must not permit our respect for the dead or our sympathy for a part of the living to lead us into an act of injustice to the balance of the living. I will not go into an argument to prove that Congress has not the power to appropriate this money as an act of charity. Every member upon this floor knows it.
US Constitution, Article I, Section 8
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
To borrow money on the credit of the United States;
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
To establish Post Offices and Post Roads;
To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;
To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings; And
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
We the People:
We should not need to wonder how much of our hard-earned money will go for pork-barrel spending and pet projects in unaffected states under the name of disaster relief. The constitutional powers enumerated to Congress are listed above; and the authority to fund such disaster relief is not among them. For good reason, this choice is left to the states and private charities.
The link to a story about US Representative Davy Crocket is also above. After a corny twenty-second opening song, a profound concept that is lost today is explained in story. Listen to the entire story, please. Some may think this portrays a government without compassion. Instead, it depicts a government operating within its constitutional authority. Compassion is exercised when people spend their personal funds for charity. The quest for votes and power is exercised when government officials spend other people’s money for charity.