Food safety bill was constitutionally tainted
December 19, 2010 - 9:42 am
Sen. Harry Reid holds up a pocket copy of the Constitution. (AP photo/Alex Brandon)
It looks like the $1.4 billion federal take over of the food industry in the name of food safety has been hoisted on that little constitutional petard I told you about a couple of weeks ago.
The bill had passed both the House and the Senate by wide margins, but the Senate version authorized the Food and Drug Administration to assess fees on those who have recalls or who fail inspections. That would be revenue. Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution says, “All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives …”
So back to the drawing board it went. It was attached to the Omnibus Spending Bill and sunk with that $1.1 trillion boondoggle.
Seth Lipsky’s “The Citizen’s Constitution: An Annotated Guide” tells us the Founders put great stake in those words because they feared smaller states would have too much influence in the Senate. Lipsky quotes Massachusetts delegate to the Constitutional Convention Elbridge Gerry as saying “taxation & representation are strongly associated in the minds of the people, and they will not agree that any but their immediate representatives shall meddle with their purses.” Gerry predicted the Constitution would not be ratified if the Senate were not so restrained.
Lipsky also quotes James Madison who wrote in Federalist No. 58:
“The House of Representatives cannot only refuse, but they alone can propose, the supplies requisite for the support of government. They, in a word, hold the purse — that powerful instrument by which we behold, in the history of the British Constitution, an infant and humble representation of the people gradually enlarging the sphere of its activity and importance, and finally reducing, as far as it seems to have wished, all the overgrown prerogatives of the other branches of the government. This power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people, for obtaining a redress of every grievance, and for carrying into effect every just and salutary measure.”
But Lipsky goes on to tell us the courts have largely gutted this section of the Constitution in several cases, basically saying raising revenue is ancillary to most legislation.
At least it was a speed bump for the food safety bill.
But the liberals pout: