The Constitution and the shut-down

The Constitution forbids:

– Spending money from the Treasury except by appropriation.
– Appropriating money for the army for longer than two years.

The Constitution does not contain any emergency opt-out clause. The Framers clearly intended that the army should cease to exist from the moment the Congress refused to appropriate money for it, and that the appropriation should have to be renewed at frequent intervals. The Framers were Whigs, and had a strong historical memory of Cromwellism.

So if, as seems increasingly likely, the wingnuts now running the House manage to shut down the government, the Constitution would require that the army – including the soldiers in the field in Afghanistan and Iraq – be disbanded.

Of course, that won’t happen. And really, that’s too bad. Because if the Constitution were followed, the threat to not pass a Continuing Resolution would be empty.

I’d be grateful to any reader more learned in this part of the law than I am to explain the theory under which the Federal government keeps spending money after the appropriations have run out, for “essential” services, including the one “essential” service that the Framers wanted to shut down as soon as Congress refused to pay for it.