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Ways and Means Resolutions: The Cornerstone of the Origination Clause

50 Pages Posted: 15 Jun 2016  

Chris Land

Wyoming Legislative Service Office

Date Written: June 10, 2016


The Origination Clause is a modern constitutional backwater, even though it was one of the most fiercely debated topics at the 1787 Constitutional Convention and a centerpiece of British parliamentary custom and usage.

This Article, for the first time, examines the role that Ways and Means resolutions played as agenda-setting vehicles for revenue legislation in the British House of Commons and colonial assemblies. These procedural instruments authorized the Crown to begin collecting taxes at the amended rates set by the unicameral resolution and set the stage for subsequent budgetary legislation enacted into law. Though only passed by the lower house and subject to further amendment, these resolutions were powerful agenda-setting devices within the legislative process that today offers a glimpse into the core meaning of the Origination Clause.

Part I places these issues into context, while Part II of this Article traces the development of Origination Clause jurisprudence from the early British period through the Constitutional Convention. Part III analyzes British and colonial practice surrounding Ways and Means resolutions and considers their effect as agenda-setting devices. Part IV considers the force of this agenda-setting purpose in light of germanity and Origination Clause precedent. Finally, Part V concludes by translating these ideas into the modern Congressional context and offers solutions for restoring substantive meaning to this important constitutional provision.

Keywords: Origination Clause, ways and means, resolution, revenue, legislation, Congress, separation of powers, legislative procedure, British House of Commons, originalism

Suggested Citation

Land, Chris, Ways and Means Resolutions: The Cornerstone of the Origination Clause (June 10, 2016). Available at SSRN:

Chris Land (Contact Author)

Wyoming Legislative Service Office ( email )

213 State Capitol
Cheyenne, WY 82002
United States

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