Revenue Bills

Insertion of this clause was another of the devices sanctioned by the Framers to preserve and enforce the separation of powers.485 It applies, in the context of the permissibility of Senate amendments to a House-passed bill, to all bills for collecting revenue— revenue decreasing as well as revenue increasing—rather than simply to just those bills that increase revenue.486

Only bills to levy taxes in the strict sense of the word are comprehended by the phrase “all bills for raising revenue”; bills for other purposes, which incidentally create revenue, are not included.487 Thus, a Senate-initiated bill that provided for a monetary “special assessment” to pay into a crime victims fund did not violate the clause, because it was a statute that created and raised revenue to support a particular governmental program and was not a law raising revenue to support Government generally.488 An act providing a national currency secured by a pledge of bonds of the United States, which, “in the furtherance of that object, and also to meet the expenses attending the execution of the act,” imposed a tax on the circulating notes of national banks was held not to be a revenue measure which must originate in the House of Representatives.489 Neither was a bill that provided that the District of Columbia should raise by taxation and pay to designated railroad companies a specified sum for the elimination of grade crossings and the construction of a railway station.490 The substitution of a corporation tax for an inheritance tax,491 and the addition of a section imposing an excise tax upon the use of foreign-built pleasure yachts,492 have been held to be within the Senate’s constitutional power to propose amendments.

Footnotes

485
THE FEDERALIST, No. 58 (J. Cooke ed. 1961), 392–395 (Madison). See United States v. Munoz-Flores, 495 U.S. 385, 393–395 (1990). [Back to text]
486
The issue of coverage is sometimes important, as in the case of the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, 96 Stat. 324, in which the House passed a bill that provided for a net loss in revenue and the Senate amended the bill to provide a revenue increase of more than $98 billion over three years. Attacks on the law as a violation of the origination clause failed before assertions of political question, standing, and other doctrines. E.g., Texas Ass’n of Concerned Taxpayers v. United States, 772 F.2d 163 (5th Cir. 1985); Moore v. U.S. House of Representatives, 733 F.2d 946 (D.C. Cir. 1984), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 1106 (1985). [Back to text]
487
2 J. STORY, COMMENTARIES ON THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES § 880 (1833). [Back to text]
488
United States v. Munoz-Flores, 495 U.S. 385 (1990). [Back to text]
489
Twin City Bank v. Nebeker, 167 U.S. 196 (1897). [Back to text]
490
Millard v. Roberts, 202 U.S. 429 (1906). [Back to text]
491
Flint v. Stone Tracy Co., 220 U.S. 107, 143 (1911). [Back to text]
492
Rainey v. United States, 232 U.S. 310 (1914). [Back to text]