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Fall 2023 Reading Group

Congress’s Power of the Purse

Prerequisite: Some background in constitutional law may be helpful, but there are no prerequisites; all are welcome to enroll.

Exam Type: No Exam

The U.S. Congress holds the “power of the purse,” meaning the power to control government spending. Often described as an essential separation-of-powers constraint on the executive branch, this power has been at the center of many recent controversies, including the government’s response to the 2008 financial crisis, payment of Obamacare subsidies, President Trump’s border wall funding, President Trump’s first impeachment, and President Biden’s student debt relief plan. The reading group will examine scholarly writings on this topic along with court decisions and other primary materials relating to recent controversies. Questions for discussion will include: How does Congress’s power of the purse relate to the constitutional powers of the executive and judicial branches? What makes the power of the purse effective? Is it losing effectiveness? Should political polarization affect how we think about the power of the purse? And to what extent can or should courts address challenges to government spending or non-spending?

Note: This reading group will meet on the following dates: 9/5, 9/19, 10/3, 10/24, 11/7, 11/21