April 15, 1999
The Administration strongly opposes a constitutional amendment requiring a
two-thirds super-majority vote to raise revenues.
The Nation's 200 year-old constitutional system, with its strong emphasis on majority rule, should not be altered or amended for symbolic or political purposes. James Madison, in The Federalist Papers (No. 58), argued against requiring super-majorities for routine legislative business, stating "the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule: the power would be transferred to the minority."
In practice, H.J.Res. 37 would have the absurd result that special interest tax loopholes could be enacted by a simple majority, but a two-thirds super-majority would be required to close such loopholes.
Another harmful effect of H.J.Res. 37 would be permitting a minority of legislators in either House to block revenue-raising measures needed to prepare for potential military conflicts or to respond to other national emergencies or unforeseen problems. The current language of the resolution permits a waiver only if the United States has declared war or is "engaged in" a military conflict, and makes no provision whatsoever for natural disasters or other emergencies.
Enforcement of the proposed amendment would also raise serious concerns. If the proposed amendment is read to authorize judicial enforcement, courts could be drawn into fundamental policy and political disputes better resolved by the elected branches of government (e.g., determining whether a tax increase is "de minimis," or distinguishing between a "fee" and a "tax"). Alternatively, if judicial enforcement is unavailable, those who would seek to enforce the amendment would be left without a remedy, and the public's confidence in the Constitution would be diminished.
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