House Republicans Have Forgotten How A Bill Becomes A Law

House Republicans engaged in a publicity stunt on Friday that displayed a profound misunderstanding of how government actually works in the United States.

Yesterday, on a nearly party line vote, the House Of Representatives passed a bizarre piece of legislation that purports to say that if the Senate fails to act on passing a FY2011 budget resolution, then the version passed by the House will have the full effect of law:

The House narrowly passed legislation on Friday that calls for a House-passed FY 2011 spending bill to become law should the Senate fail to approve a spending bill by April 6. It would also prevent members of Congress from being paid during a government shutdown.

The bill, H.R. 1255, was approved over bitter Democratic opposition in a 221-202 vote in which no Democrats supported it, and 15 Republicans opposed it.

Several Democrats argued that the measure is unconstitutional, charging that it would “deem” that the 2011 spending bill, H.R. 1, has the force of law if the Senate fails to act. Some Democrats seized on the floor comments from Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), who broke with his party and said on the floor that this aspect of the bill “violates my conscious and the Constitution, and I cannot vote for it.”

Republicans voting “no” were Reps. Justin Amash (Mich.), Michael Burgess (Texas), Jason Chaffetz (Utah), Jeff Fortenberry (Neb.), Louie Gohmert (Texas), Richard Hanna (NY), Walter Jones (NC), Dan Lungren (Calif.), Tom McClintock (Calif.), Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.), Ron Paul (Texas), Ted Poe (Texas), Reid Ribble (Wis.), Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), and James Sensenbrenner (Wis.). Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) was the only member of the House to vote “present.”

The opponents of H.R 1255 are, of course, absolutely correct. One chamber of Congress cannot declare a piece of legislation to be law without the consent of the Senate and the President. In fact, as Ed Morrissey notes, the answer to this question can be found in the very Constitution that House Republicans have proclaimed is so important to them:

Section 7 – Revenue Bills, Legislative Process, Presidential Veto

All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

Or, if that’s too hard for Boehner, Cantor and the others to understand, they can just watch this video:

You’ll remember, of course, that the GOP started off the 112th Congress with a reading of the Constitution, including Article 1 Section 7 noted above, and also said the following in their Pledge To America:

We pledge to honor the Constitution as constructed by its framers and honor the original intent of those precepts that have been consistently ignored – particularly the Tenth Amendment, which grants that all powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

This is unequivocally one of the silliest pieces of legislation I’ve seen in quite some time, and it’s ironic that the party that campaigned in 2010 on adherence to the Constitution would attempt to violate it in such a stupid manner.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. DMan says:

    Do you think this is a political maneuver by Republicans in the House to convince the gullible public that they are not responsible for a government shutdown as seen by their attempts to pass the budget through the House alone? I don’t know what else to make of it, thoughts?

  2. sam says:

    Aren’t Congress critters supposed to cite in a preamble, by a Republican-imposed rule, the portions of the Constitution that (supposedly) justify a bill that is introduced in the House?

  3. Dan says:

    Maybe it’s an attempt to get Domocrats to object to something that politicians shouldn’t do –
    like passing a law under which politicians force citizens to buy the product of the politicians’ choice namely : Health Insurance

  4. Dodd says:

    Well, is it a publicity stunt or a profound misunderstanding of how Constitutional government works? Because it can’t really be both.

    IOW, yes, it’s silly. And likely counterproductive. But it’s also pretty clearly the former, not the latter. Reid’s had the House budget bill for months but has taken no action on it. This isn’t the way I’d choose to highlight that fact — its Constitutional incoherence produces precisely this kind of response, muddying what ought to be crystal clear waters — but it is ginning up news coverage.

  5. ponce says:

    Occam’s Razor.

    Maybe the House Republicans really are stupid.

  6. MarkedMan says:

    When you say that Reid has had the house budget for months but has not acted on it, do you mean he hasn’t bought it up for a vote? Because he’s under no obligation to do that. It’s up to the House and Senate to reach a bill that will pass in both places. And if they don’t have a two thirds majority, they need the President too. Reid has no obligation to put a bill to the vote just because the mighty- struttin’ tea party house him throws it at him and then sticks their collective fingers in their ears.

  7. Hey Norm says:

    Every republican who voted for this should resign. Ignorance is no excuse.

  8. Tano says:

    Maybe the House Republicans really are stupid.

    Its really hard to avoid that conclusion. Making themselves laughingstocks for anyone who has graduated third grade. Completely underlying their “constitutionality” arguments. Making it abundantly clear that they have zero interest in actually doing the hard work of governing.

    How can anyone justify voting for any of these clowns?

  9. tom p says:

    One party government is the GOP goal… if they can’t have that, than no gov’t.

  10. tom p says:

    One party government is the GOP goal… if they can’t have that, than no gov’t.

    Dodd, Doug…. show me how I am wrong.

  11. Wayne says:

    Didn’t Pelosi state when she was house speaker that you can deemed a bill to have pass without ever voting on it?

    I agree it was B.S. then as it would be now. However I seem to remember many people backing Pelosi’s position.

    Yes Markman Reid doesn’t have to vote on any bill he doesn’t want to. However it is disingenuous to blame the House for not passing a budget when the House has done their part while the Senate hasn’t done theirs.

    Usually the House passes a bill then the Senate amends it or passes one of theirs then the two houses get together and try to hammer out the differences. I believe spending measures need to originate in the House. The Senate hasn’t passed anything so the two can have an intelligent discussion. They haven’t even had votes.

  12. Dodd says:

    One party government is the GOP goal… if they can’t have that, than no gov’t.

    Dodd, Doug…. show me how I am wrong.

    I daresay that any political party seeks one-party government — under its own control. Pretty much by definition.

    But the second half of your proposition doesn’t follow from anything being discussed here. Quite the opposite: The House passed a budget bill months ago, the Senate hasn’t done its job. This PR stunt is designed to highlight the essential fact that we don’t have a budget because the Democrats won’t let one get through. And, of course, the only reason we’re in this situation is that Pelosi and Reid failed in their basic duty to pass a budget last year when they still had… wait for it… one-party government.

    I imagine they wish they’d done so now, but they apparently thought at the time that doing so would be bad for their chances of holding on to their one-party rule. So, no, the facts don’t support the assertion that the GOP wants no government if it can’t run all of it.

  13. Jay Tea says:

    Patterico — an actual, practicing lawyer — was right there with you, Doug…

    Until he did some homework, and came to the conclusion that this whole story was completely bogus, and the bill did no such thing.

    He’s (painfully) walked his original piece back.

    Care to do the same, Doug?