2Center or American Progress | The Fake James Madison
Tis las power, he auhoriy o raise and spend money, is among Congress’s broadespowers. Under he Consiuion, naional leaders are ree o spend money in any way hey choose so long as hey do so o “provide or he common deense and general welare o he Unied Saes.”
For his reason, laws such as Medicare and Social Securiy are obviously consiuional because hey boh raise and spend money o he bene o all Americans upon heir reiremen.Many members o Congress, however, do no believe he Consiuion’s words mean wha hey say hey mean. Consider he words o Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who recenly explained he origin o he increasingly common belie ha Congress’s consiuionalspending power is so small ha i can be drowned in a bahub:
I you read [James] Madison, Madison will tell you what he thought o the WelareClause. He said, “Yeah, there is a General Welare Clause, but i we meant that you cando anything, why would we have listed the enumerated powers?” Really, the WelareClause is bound by the enumerated powers that we gave the ederal government.
In essence, Paul and many o his ellow conservaives believe Congress’s power o collecaxes and “provide or he common deense and general welare o he Unied Saes”really only enables Congress o build pos oces or und wars or ake oher acionsexpressly auhorized by some oher par o he Consiuion. According o his view, hespending power is no—as i is almos universally undersood
—isel an independenenumeraed power auhorizing Congress o spend money.Paul’s undersanding o he Spending Clause is no simply he idiosyncraic view o an oulier senaor. Indeed, here is srong reason o believe his view is shared by hemajoriy o his caucus. In he lead-up o he 2010 miderm elecions, congressionalRepublicans released a “Pledge o America,” which broadly oulined heir plans or gov-erning i hey were o prevail ha November.
In i, he lawmakers claimed ha “lack o respec or he clear consiuional limis and auhoriies has allowed Congress o creaeineecive and cosly programs ha add o he massive deci year aer year.”
Tis language suggess ha many conservaives agree wih Sen. Paul ha Congress issomehow exceeding is consiuional auhoriy o spend money. Bu here is no sup-por or his view in consiuional ex or in Supreme Cour preceden.In is very rs decision o consider he issue—is 1936 decision in
United Statesv. Butler
—he Supreme Cour unanimously armed ha “he power o Congresso auhorize expendiure o public moneys or public purposes is no limied by hedirec grans o legislaive power ound in he Consiuion,” as Sen. Paul would claim.
Similarly, while he ex o he Consiuion esablishes ha “he exercise o he spend-ing power mus be in pursui o ‘he general welare,’” neiher Sen. Paul nor he Pledgecies examples o laws ha ail o mee his crierion.