Chairman Goodlatte: The Origination Clause was the result of a contentious dispute at the Constitutional Convention between big states and small states over the structure and powers of the federal government. The less-populated small states feared that the Senate, where each state would have equal representation, would have little control over raising revenue. Indeed, all versions of the origination clause that prohibited the Senate from amending revenue-raising bills were vigorously opposed by small-state delegates. On the other hand, the Framers understood the importance of keeping the power to tax close to the people.

This dispute was ultimately resolved by providing the Senate with the power to “propose or concur with amendments as on other bills.” Unfortunately, the exact scope of the Senate’s power to amend House bills under this Clause remains ambiguous today. I hope this Committee’s hearing will help clarify the extent of the Senate’s authority to “propose or concur with Amendments” on revenue bills in addition to examining the original meaning of the term “Bills for Raising Revenue.”

Nevertheless, it’s clear that Members of the House of Representatives have a duty to safeguard its constitutional prerogative in order to protect individual liberty from the dangers of concentrated power. And that duty is distinct from the Senate. In Federalist 58, Madison stated:

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.

It’s clear from Madison that the Origination Clause was designed to be one of many important constitutional tools that the House uses against the “overgrown prerogatives” of other branches of government or even the Senate. Therefore, it is important that we do not disregard this duty. 

I would like to thank our witnesses for coming, and I look forward to their testimony.

Click here to learn more about today’s hearing.