Article 1, Section 7, Clause 1

Document 10

Debate in Virginia Ratifying Convention

14 June 1788Elliot 3:375--78

Mr. Grayson objected to the power of the Senate to propose or concur with amendments to money bills. He looked upon the power of proposing amendments to be equal, in principle, to that of originating, and that they were, in fact, the same. As this was, in his opinion, a departure from that great principle which required that the immediate representatives of the people only should interfere with money bills, he wished to know the reasons on which it was founded. The lords in England had never been allowed to intermeddle with money bills. He knew not why the Senate should. In the lower house, said he, the people are represented according to their numbers. In the upper house, the states are represented in their political capacities. Delaware, or Rhode Island, has as many representatives here as Massachusetts. Why should the Senate have a right to intermeddle with money, when the representation is neither equal nor just?

Mr. Madison. Mr. Chairman, the criticism made by the honorable member is, that there is an ambiguity in the words, and that it is not clearly ascertained where the origination of money bills may take place. I suppose the first part of the clause is sufficiently expressed to exclude all doubts. The gentlemen who composed the Convention divided in opinion concerning the utility of confining this to any particular branch. Whatever it be in Great Britain, there is a sufficient difference between us and them to render it inapplicable to this country. It has always appeared to me to be a matter of no great consequence, whether the Senate had a right of originating or proposing amendments to money bills, or not. To withhold it from them would create disagreeable disputes. Some American constitutions make no difference. Virginia and South Carolina are, I think, the only states where this power is restrained. In Massachusetts, and other states, the power of proposing amendments is vested, unquestionably, in their senates. No inconvenience has resulted from it. On the contrary, with respect to South Carolina, this clause is continually a source of disputes. When a bill comes from the other house, the Senate entirely rejects it, and this causes contentions. When you send a bill to the Senate, without the power of making any alteration, you force them to reject the bill altogether, when it would be necessary and advantageous that it should pass.

The power of proposing alterations removes this inconvenience, and does not appear to me at all objectionable. I should have no objection to their having a right of originating such bills. People would see what was done, and it would add the intelligence of one house to that of the other. It would be still in the power of the other house to obstruct any injudicious measure proposed by them.

There is no landmark or constitutional provision in Great Britain, which prohibits the House of Lords from intermeddling with money bills; but the House of Commons have established this rule. Yet the lords insist on their having a right to originate them, as they possess great property, as well as the commons, and are taxed like them. The House of Commons object to their claim, lest they should too lavishly make grants to the crown, and increase the taxes. The honorable member says that there is no difference between the right of originating bills and proposing amendments. There is some difference, though not considerable. If any grievances should happen in consequence of unwise regulations in revenue matters, the odium would be divided, which will now be thrown on the House of Representatives. But you may safely lodge this power of amending with the Senate. When a bill is sent with proposed amendments to the House of Representatives, if they find the alterations defective, they are not conclusive. The House of Representatives are the judges of their propriety, and the recommendation of the Senate is nothing. The experience of this state justifies this clause. The House of Delegates has employed weeks in forming a money bill; and because the Senate had no power of proposing amendments, the bill was lost altogether, and a new bill obliged to be again introduced, when the insertion of one line by the Senate would have done. Those gentlemen who oppose this clause will not object to it when they recollect that the senators are appointed by the states, as the present members of Congress are appointed; for, as they will guard the political interests of the states in other respects, they will attend to them very probably in their amendments to money bills. I think this power, for these considerations, is useful and necessary.

Mr. Grayson still considered the power of proposing amendments to be the same, in effect, as that of originating. The Senate could strike out every word of the bill, except the word whereas, or any other introductory word, and might substitute new words of their own. As the state of Delaware was not so large as the county of Augusta, and Rhode Island was still less, and yet had an equal suffrage in the Senate, he could not see the propriety of giving them this power, but referred it to the judgment of the house.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 2, Article 1, Section 7, Clause 1, Document 10
The University of Chicago Press

Elliot, Jonathan, ed. The Debates in the Several State Conventions on the Adoption of the Federal Constitution as Recommended by the General Convention at Philadelphia in 1787. . . . 5 vols. 2d ed. 1888. Reprint. New York: Burt Franklin, n.d.

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