Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D–NV) is trying to use the Senate to message on tax issues. The problem is that this political ploy is unconstitutional.
It is important to note that any big tax idea—whether it be comprehensive tax reform, the President’s idea to extend only certain aspects of the 2001 and 2003 tax policies, or the Republican idea to extend all of the policies for one year—has no chance of passing before the election. Every major tax idea is merely messaging.
Per Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution (the Origination Clause), tax bills are supposed to originate in the House, yet Reid has forced votes on the tax-related “Buffett Rule” and the Violence Against Women Act, which was rejected by the House because it unconstitutionally originated a revenue-raising provision. The Buffett Rule never passed the Senate.
It is possible for the Senate to debate tax issues if it takes up a House-passed tax bill. The House can start a tax discussion that triggers a tax debate in the Senate. But Senators are not even pretending to legislate by taking up a tax bill; they are merely rolling out Senate-originated tax ideas for debate in the Senate. This violates Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution.