We ain’t got to show you no stinking rules!

There are a couple of ways of controlling Congress.  One is to impose rules on them, the other is to take away their power.  The problem with imposing rules is what one of my political mentors, Sen. Bill Ray, Democrat of Juneau, used to call Rule 12.

He was the Senate Majority Leader my first year in Juneau, and I was the Senate Minority Whip.  I read the Rules of the Alaska Legislature, and made sure the majority was following them.  One day I caught them in a blatant violation, but Bill just shrugged it off.  He told me about Rule 12, the one that counted.  There were 20 members of the Senate, and twelve of them were in the Senate Majority.   That meant that Bill Ray, and the majority, decided on what the rules were.  The written rules were just guidelines.

The second way to control them is to take away their power.  Under the language of the Balanced Budget Amendment Resolutions which are active in 28 states, the term “balanced budget amendment” includes, within it, the possibility of a line item veto.  So I propose that the first substantive Article V Amendment should be the BBA, but only to the extent of a line item veto.

Democrats may not want to give President Trump, personally, this political weapon.  In which case the line item veto would be available to the next President, to be sworn in on January 20, 2021, and successors.  Trump would only get it if he’s reelected.

All Presidents want the line item veto.  90% of us come from states where the governor has it.  We all know it works.  It’s the best way to reign in legislative overspending.  It’s tried and true in the American political tradition.  It’s not a radical innovation.  We’ll all know what we’re getting.

It’s the sort of thing Article V is for.

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