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Study Notes

Power of the Purse

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

The US Constitution gives the Power of the Purse to Congress. This power is outlined in Article I, Section 9, Clause 7, known as the Appropriations Clause and Article I, Section 8, Clause 1, known as the Taxing and Spending Clause. The power also forms part of the checks and balances enshrined in the Constitution.

The power of the purse is the ability to tax and spend public money for the Federal Government. Specifically, bills that are specifically for the purpose of raising revenue are to start in the House of Representatives. The idea at the Constitutional Convention was to give this power to the House, as it was the only part of Congress that was directly elected.

Under the power of the purse, the US Federal Budget will be passed by Congress, as per the Constitution, but typically the core of the budget will be present to Congress by the President. However, Congress will add amendments, so in most cases the Federal Budget will not be the same document that was initially submitted by the President.

The power of the purse has been a significant power which notably ended the Vietnam War, through the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974, which suspended all federal funding for the war.

The power of the purse applies to all legislation that will direct federal spending, it is not just the US Federal Budget.

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