George W. Cataline

George Bush claims the authority to spend appropriated funds to ends for which they were explicitly not appropriated. Where is the outrage?

George W. Bush asserts that when Congress appropriates funds but then forbids their expenditure for a specific purpose, he may and will spend them for that purpose if he thinks that obeying the law

could inhibit the president’s ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to supervise the executive branch, and to execute his authority as commander in chief.

To which I can only say, “Huh”?

The Constitution specifies (Art. 1, Sec. 9) that

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law.

The Constitution does not, of course, give the President any authority to “protect national security.” That phrase does not occur in the text, although the Preamble says that one of the purposes of the government is to “Provide for the Common Defense.” Nor does it give him any authority to “supervise the Executive Branch,” as opposed to specific powers to appoint officials and require written opinions from them and a general duty to “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

If the President can spend funds to do something for which the Congress explicitly didn’t appropriate them, why does he need an appropriation in the first place? As Commander in Chief, why can’t he simply appropriate as much money as he sees fit for whatever “national security” purpose he sees fit?

I speak subject to the correction of experts in Constitutional law, but this, even more than the rest of Mr. Bush’s signing statements, strikes me as truly revolutionary, a raw grab for power that anyone who calls himself a conservative or a friend of limited government should reject with horror.

But I fear that the wells of horror have been drained dry by the past seven years, and that no faction of the Republican Party remains truly conservative. I would be happy to be proven wrong.

h/t Kevin Drum

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: