Explain Congress’ ‘power of the purse’. (10 marks)
The Power of the Purse is the power granted to Congress to direct the flow of funds requested from Executive officials due to their right to do so granted from the Constitution. This power is granted under Article I Section 9 of the constitution and was granted to avoid ‘executive tyranny’ that was widely seen during the reign of the British.
Following the 1930’s and the Roosevelt New Deal, what was intended to be the most prominent branch of government took to the second rudder to be replaced by an executive growing in power and importance. Thus it became ever more essential for Congress to exercise its power of the purse as new programmes were set up for the next 50 years. Therefore when the executive began to grow in size, something that is yet to halt, and began increasing the role of Federal agencies such as the Social Security Administration set up from the Social Security Act 1935 and relied on a temporary budget from the Federal Emergency relief Administration. The Social Security Administration is currently the largest social welfare program in the United States, constituting 37% of government expenditure and 7% of GDP with an annual budget of $736.1 Billion, clearly a massive increase from a non-funded organization. As the Executive began demanding more funds for new social programs such as the SSA the importance of the power of the purse increased with Congress beginning to become hesitant. The Founding Fathers intended for Congress’ power of the purse to be a pivotal power in asserting its dominance over the Executive as suggested by James Madison when he stated that it was “the most complete and effectual weapon with which any constitution can arm the immediate representatives of the people”.
The suggestion that the Power of the Purse was intended to be a check on the power of the executive