Skip to Content

Support MinnPost

Treasury takedown: Bachmann vs. Geithner-Bernanke

Here's the video of Rep. Bachmann's exchange with Sec. Geithner and Fed Chair Bernanke.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., got in a little spat over the U.S. Constitution with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke during a hearing today before the House Financial Services Committee.

Here are excerpts:

Bachmann: What provision in the Constitution could you point to to give authority for the actions that have been taken by the Treasury since March of 08?

Geithner: Oh well, the Congress legislated in the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act a range of very important new authorities.

Bachmann: (Interrupting) What in the Constitution could you point to to give authority to the Treasury's extraordinary actions that have been taken?

Geithner: (Frowning) Every action that the Treasury and the Fed and the FDIC has been using authority granted by this body, the congress.

Bachmann: In the Constitution what could you point to?

Geithner: Under the laws of the land, of course.

And here's Bernanke's answer to essentially the same question:

Bernanke: The Congress has the right to authorize funds which is what they did in the TARP program and they have given us. In the 1930s they gave the Federal Reserve the power for emergency lending as a means of addressing financial crisis, which is what we have done.

The back-and-forth drew attention outside the committee hearing as well. Writing on Salon.com, Andrew Leonard concluded: "Perhaps this is unkind, but Bachmann didn't seem to appreciate that Congress' power to legislate is in the Constitution."

(Update: In an interview with MinnPost after the hearing, Bachmann said, “My intent to the line of questioning is legitimate because I have a number of constituents that ask me ‘Can they do this?’” She added, “I think it is realistic for us to ask these questions because it is something you have to pay for, I have to pay for... so to ask is this constitutional, bankrupting the country, I think that’s a legitimate line of questioning.”) 

During the hearing, Bachmann also asked questions on another topic: the U.S. dollar. Noting China's call "for the creation of a new currency to eventually replace the dollar as the world's standard," Bachmann asked Geithner and Bernanke if they would “categorically renounce the United States moving away from the dollar and going to a global currency.” Both answered “yes.”

Cynthia Dizikes covers Minnesota's congressional delegation and reports on issues and developments in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at cdizikes[at]minnpost[dot]com.

Get MinnPost's top stories in your inbox

Related Tags:

Comments (15)

When did Michele Bachmann find out about the Constitution? Who told her, and when? This is a very new discovery for her.

And make no mistake - she is getting some excellent coaching, going from renowned and laughable dingbat to asking appropriate and tough questions in a way that reflects very unfavorably on the Obama administration.

I'm waiting for her to hang the entire financial mess on Clinton's signing the bills that undid the
securities industries protections of the 1930s, including the Glass-Steagall Act preventing banks from involvement in transactions like securitizing
mortgages.

She faces the very strong likelihood of seeing her
Congressional District gerrymandered out from under her after the 2010 census, and she is nothing if not a survivor. Minnesota's own Sarah Palin. Expect to see her next fall with a Kentucky rifled musket held high in one hand, dragging a deer out of the woods with the other, then gutting it for the cameras.

The Congressional actions which Rep. Bachmann questions are authorized by Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which provides in part:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the * * * general welfare of the United States;

To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate commerce * * * among the several states [;]

To coin money, regulate the value thereof[;]

To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

The U. S. Supreme Court has held on numerous occasions that the scope of the power granted to Congress under Section 8, including the Commerce Clause, is extremely broad.

Of course, Rep. Bachmann is well aware of this, or should be, given her law degree.

Poor Michelle she is moving back in time...to the era of Alexander Hamilton. "Madam, can I ask why you are on the panel?",said Mr. Hamilton, "I was under the impression that the constitution did not allow women to vote or hold office. But for your information the answer is Article I of the constitution." Of course maybe Michelle is really a reincarnation from the Jackson Bank of the US fight. Could she be a recycled Democrat? Speaking of moving-the lady and her family have moved once again-to south Washington County-just in time for re-districting.

Michelle ethics recap: the bio children go to private schools the foster kids to public school.

It is great news that the Congress can isolate and choose who it wants to take money from, that way, only a handful of people can pay for all the new spending. By simply taxing Gates, Buffet, Pickens, and maybe a couple of others at about 95% we can balance the budget.

First the Bachman folks want to interpret scripture literally, now they would like to interpret the constitution literally. Too bad she doesn't understand Article 2 Section 8 very well. I can see the simple minded logic at work. Maybe I should feel sorry for pork producers?

PJ Guernsey

I agree with the other commenters here about how there is in fact constitutional authority for the bailout.

My point is that Bachmann is looking and sounding credible in front of the television cameras.

She will be able to use the video and sound bites for her next campaign, which will be based on blaming the Democrats for the mess.

And where is this high-level coaching coming from? She's never displayed this level of performance before. Has Karl Rove adopted her?

Mr. Hamilton mentions MB's law degree:

[from the Minnesota Independent]:

...She graduated from O.W. Coburn School of Law at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Okla., in 1986.

"The ABA yanked Coburn's accreditation in 1981 over its Christian litmus tests for students and faculty but later reinstated it. However, the law school closed in 1986 and donated its library to Pat Robertson's Regent University in Virginia. Regent then started its own law school but didn't receive ABA accreditation until 1996....

http://minnesotaindependent.com/5746/oral-roberts-u-grad-bachmann-says-h...

The law degree is phony (because the law school was not accredited) and the questions are phony, too. How can anyone who claims to have a law degree not know that Article 1 of the U.S. Constitution vests legislative power in the Congress and authority to appropriate money in the House? How can Minnesotans, with their reputation for good government, vote for this woman?

Interesting that Bachmann critics suddenly discover Article I, section 8 of the Constitution, the famous “Enumeration of Powers” clause, which was intended to limit the powers of government to only those specifically granted to it, and more interesting still that they find in the constitutional clause limiting the power of the federal government justification for a massive expansion of federal authority. Not surprising is that they are looking in the wrong place.

Article I, section 1 of the Constitution – the first clause after the Preamble – states, “All legislative Powers … shall be vested in a Congress” – not in a Treasury Department. The words “all” and “shall” are significant. In a legal sense, those words preclude Congress from selectively discriminating among legislative powers, retaining some for itself and delegating others to the executive branch. But that is precisely what the TARP legislation does.

The constitutionality issue has to do with the Congressional authority to delegate legislative power, and Geithner and Bernanke’s defense that their actions are constitutional because they were granted by Congress are as valid as those of a person claiming the right to keep stolen property given to him by the thief.

First off; all you smart alecks making snide remarks about Mrs. Bachmann need to get off your high horse, and understand that maybe you don't like her politics (republican), but she is in office and as such, is doing the peoples business. I for one would like to know what justifications are going on to fold these "laws" in and muddy up the waters. I personally believe we have a whole lot of folks in right now that absolutely do not have a clue about what they're doing. They're acting in a not-completely-rational way about decisions that ultimately you, me and every one else on here will be paying for for the next 2 or three generations!!! Lets make sure everyone is on board here.

Mr. Westover's comment makes absolutely no sense - it didn't in 1780 and it doesn't in 2009. Its obvious that the Congress was going to appoint agents and establish staff and agencies to execute their laws - they sure weren't going to staff the federal government in their off hours. Those agencies then operate with the authority of their congressional enabling act.

And if the issue is if Congress can tax and spend, that's addressed in too many areas to cite.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but 'legislative' means to write law, while executive means to execute, or implement. So when Congress legislates via TARP, it is up to Treasury - within the Executive branch - to execute. Or, perhaps Mr Westover would explain what he means when he implies Treasury is 'legislating'.

Mr. Westover seems to have an inside track on the meaning of Rep. Bachmann's questions, a meaning not found in her words during or after the hearing. It's a long jump from "What is your constitutional authority for the actions taken by the Treasury" to "It's an unconstitutional delegation of powers."

Perhaps Mr. Westover will elaborate on precisely what powers he believes have been improperly delegated by Congress and the legal authority supporting his position. (While he's at it, I'd appreciate learning something about his qualifications for legal commentary. So far as I've been able to determine, he attended Hamline University and worked in marketing before becoming a conservative pundit.)

Finally, someone with the B*lls to take on these thugs. The US Constitution is being violated and ignored with strange new "authority" allowing the Treasury Sec. and his wiseguys to covertly give bailout money to banks with the excuse that we would not use those banks if we knew that they needed a bailout ... Hello, this is our money you're giving them {without telling us,} and our Constitution that I and all Vets fought for to defend and keep sacred for all Americans. Obama is the worst thing that has ever happened to America! And I am afraid that we will all soon see why.

Schoolhouse Rocks made a lovely little teaching video called I'm Just a Bill. Someone should send Bachmann a copy.