Issues & Insights

Civics 101: Legislators With ‘The Power Of The Purse’ Want To Use It

Interesting that in once again trashing the intrepid band of House conservatives known as the Freedom Caucus, the Uniparty-cheerleading Wall Street Journal refers to “Civics 101.”

Well. A concept nearly always found in civics courses is “checks and balances.” And one check, theoretically, is Congress’s “power of the purse.” (Discussed in this opinion piece in … wait for it … the Wall Street Journal.)

The countervailing check: the presidential veto pen (and resources to propose or direct spending in myriad ways).

So why is it considered so radical and “obstructionist” when members of one faction – conservative Republicans – seek to employ those fiscal checks to good purpose through a government shutdown?

America’s last shutdown showdown, from December 2018 into January 2019, was over President Donald Trump’s border wall. Excoriated for weeks, the president ultimately capitulated.

The result: No completed wall (though The Donald employed emergency powers to redirect some military funding). And today: border chaos and a flood of fentanyl.

The previous instance, around a year earlier, involved a two-day shutdown both over the wall and ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) immigration policy.

The outcome as of this date: DACA is still in place (although a federal district court recently held it unconstitutional).

And responding to the attempt before that, Establishment Republicans threw Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz under the bus as he sought to defund Obamacare.

By now you’re catching on: Obamacare is bigger, badder, and more burdensome than ever.

Which is why the caucus’ current shot across the Uniparty’s bow opposing another bloated “continuing resolution” spending bill is more than justified.

Not just because another such stuffed Christmas turkey would violate the spirit of last spring’s limp debt ceiling agreement and its incentives to return to separate appropriations bills for greater visibility and accountability. And not just because of Team Freedom’s well-grounded fear that another annual package would lock in last year’s gazillion-dollar omnibus outrage.

But because, as the conservatives point out, it’s more than fiscal and institutional rectitude that screams for putting the purported purse power into practice.

It’s that progressives in seemingly every square inch of both the federal executive and judicial branches have gone not just radically but uncontrollably, unconscionably, and unconstitutionally rogue – and desperately need “checked.”

The judicial branch has gone rogue:

  • Scheduling a former president – and his party’s runaway choice to return to that office – for a federal trial the day before the 2024 campaign’s largest tranche of primaries on dozens of “Trumped-up” charges that could imprison him for decades. And ordering him not to exercise his First Amendment rights to comment on this scorched-earth persecution.
  • Turning Jan. 6 protesters into Stasi-like political prisoners – leveraging so-called “terrorism enhancements” intended for real terrorists to sentence Proud Boys defendants to outrageous terms of 15, 17, 18, and 22 years respectively, and a sobbing, mercy-begging grandmother to 15 months in prison. One “terrorism enhancement” involved shaking a chain-link security fence. Grandma’s “crime:” an under-20-minute jaunt in the Capitol involving no weapon and zero violence.
  • Immediately remanding to prison, pre-sentencing, seven pro-lifers – including two more 70-plus-year-old grandmas – after convictions under the constitutionally dubious Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act. For the “violent crime” of “kneel(ing) and pray(ing), distribut(ing) pro-life literature, and counsel(ing) women considering abortions,” these vicious offenders face up to 11 years behind bars.

And the executive branch has gone rogue:

  • Revelations emerge that the Justice Department plotted to let Hunter Biden walk with no charges at all until whistleblowers revealed high-level obstructions of investigations and prosecution. Hunter has now been indicted on two gun charges – but there’s no sign of consequences for tax-dodging and taking (and shoveling to his father, then vice president) millions of dollars in bribes from officials of hostile foreign nations.
  • Immigration authorities acknowledge the entry of 75,000 illegal aliens with a possible “nexus to terrorism” – including a posse smuggled in by a group with established terrorist ties, taken into custody, and released. And that a record 150,000-plus entered the immigration court system in July, and a record number of family units crossed the border illegally in August.
  • Sleepy Joe admits his Inflation Reduction Act boondoggle had nothing to do with reducing inflation. The count of Americans falling behind on car and credit card payments hits a decade-long high under the cumulative 16% price rise since his economic arson squad took office. Not to mention, as noted on these pages, that the book-cooking Bidenite Labor Department is reeling back job growth claims by the hundreds of thousands.

Freedom Caucusers have appropriately laid down a list of demands to check such excesses. Cuts beyond those agreed to in the debt ceiling pact. A potpourri of provisions to seal the border and discourage migrants. Halting justice system weaponization and Pentagon wokeness. No blank check on Ukraine funding. And no short-term funding extensions.

It’s too much. Let’s simplify things, because a menu of options would make it too hard for the American people to choose sides and too easy for Democrats to pick at.

Three straightforward demands:

  1. Enact a one-year funding bill cutting spending by one percent. Check.
  2. Restore Trump immigration policies that controlled the border, including Remain in Mexico, Safe Third Country, and Rapid Return. Check.
  3. And drop all – meaning all – federal charges against Trump, the most prominent instance of weaponization. Check.

In other words, no government checks without real checks on government branches gone rogue. Or as one prominent publication puts it: “Civics 101.”

Bob Maistros is a messaging and communications strategist, crisis specialist, and former political speechwriter. He can be reached at

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  • — So why is it considered so radical and “obstructionist” when members of one faction – conservative Republicans – seek to employ those fiscal checks to good purpose through a government shutdown? —

    It suggests that those calling the move “obstructionist” have an allegiance to something other than the health of the Republic. There’s nothing more addictive than money. Washington spends trillions of dollars each year. There are many ways to “get a piece of the action”…and once hooked on that drug, withdrawal becomes unthinkable.

  • — So why is it considered so radical and “obstructionist” when members of one faction – conservative Republicans – seek to employ those fiscal checks to good purpose through a government shutdown? —
    because, totalitarians, marxists, socialists, COMMUNISTS, narcissists, will stop at nothing to attain their ultimate goal of total power. and “useful idiots” will never see it coming.

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