The House of Representatives is not merely a larger Senate. The Constitution divided the legislative branch into two Houses, with different constituencies, term lengths, sizes, and functions for each house. For example, only the Senate offers advice and consent on treaties and appointments of judges and executive officials. And as Erik M. Jensen explains in his Constitutional Guidance for Lawmakers essay, only the House of Representatives holds the power to raise revenue – an essential element of the power of the purse.
Federalist No. 58 described the House’s power over the purse as “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.” In recent years, however, the Senate has usurped the House’s prerogative. The Senate has construed its power to amend bills so broadly as to replace the entire text of revenue bills that had originated in the House. Members of the House of Representatives should be more zealous in protecting their exclusive duty. Next time the Senate attempts to usurp the House’s power over bills of revenue, members of the House shouldn’t be afraid to say: “Hands off my purse!”
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