The Power Struggle
The United States of America has a unique form of government which consist of a separation of powers. The separation of powers is a design of the government in which it distributes power to all three branches. Checks and Balances was intended to keep all three branches of government with similar power to keep one from being too powerful. The Checks and Balances was developed to create a balance within the three branches consisting of the Legislative branch, the Executive branch, and the Judiciary branch “Congress was given the power to borrow money, collect taxes, and “regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among several states” (Abernathy pg. 59). The Legislative branch has a larger influence than the other branches even in the subject of money, taxes, and the social contract within the people. A social contract is an agreement the people have with the government to ensure order in society. In a way you are giving up your freedom, in return for a service provided by the government to ensure the safety of its citizens along with order. The legislative branch was given the right to create laws which were necessary to keep things in order.
“MY THESIS IS” When taking things into consideration, the Legislative branch is the most powerful; with its ability to create laws, borrow money, collect taxes, regulate commerce, and most importantly develop a social contract with its citizens in return of ensuring safety and maintaining order.
II. Enumerated Powers of Congress
Under Article 1 section 8 the enumerated powers of Congress include the ability to make laws, coin money, develop post offices, post roads, raise an army and navy even though the president is the commander in chief, as well as the ability to raise revenue and how to spend it. The enumeration of powers was a way of giving congress a clear path on what its mission was when it came down to its power and functions. The most important power of Congress is its legislative authority; with its ability to pass laws in areas of national policy. The laws that Congress creates are called statutory law. Most of the laws which are passed down by Congress apply to the public, and on some cases private laws. The second key role of Congress falls into the way they manage their budget. Congress has the ability to collect taxes and choose how to spend them. The biggest controversy when it comes to the budget, is the inclusion of earmarks to proposed legislation. This is the process in which members allocate and direct monies to projects or groups within their districts, rather than to put the nations interest first. Earmarks are not designed to look out for the nation’s best interest, but rather for their own. “In 2011 the Earmarks were put to an end by the House of Representatives due to the high criticism of the way funds were being allocated” (Abernathy pg.415). The third major role of Congress is the oversight which it uses its authority to ensure that the laws they passed were being enforced the way they were intended to be. The oversight responsibilities of Congress apply to the federal bureaucracy as well as to elected and appointed officials. A very distinct characteristic of congress is that it plays a role in the nation’s security. Congress can raise an army and a navy even though the president is the Commander in Chief. It can do so because the social contract states that it ensures safety and order to its citizens in return of freedom in a sense. If the nation’s security is looked over as its best interest, then allocating the funds collected from taxes can be for this sole purpose. A distinctive characteristic Congress has, is the authority to remove federal officials such as the president, vice president, government officials, and federal judges though impeachment. Impeachment can occur to any official acting unethical, including treason, bribery, misdemeanors, and any other high crimes.
II. Expanded Powers of Congress
The expanded powers of Congress can also be called implied powers. Implied powers are those which are granted to Congress even though they are not specifically listed under the U.S. Constitution. These implied powers specifically come from a very broad clause listed under the U.S. Constitution as “Elastic Clause”. These Elastic Clause do not specifically list the abilities of Congress; yet it grants Congress the power to pass any laws considered “necessary and Proper”. A good example of Congress exercising its implied powers consist of the limitations imposed to the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment is deeply instilled in our constitution, yet Congress can limit it in a way. Gun control laws have been put into effect on the Second Amendment which currently limit the sale of and possession of firearms. This creates conflict within the people, but in return it comes back to the social contract. You give away some freedom, for the return of safety and government services. When the Amendments were put in to the constitution, times were very different. For example, a gun back then was used for hunting and protection. Guns were very different back then compared to what we currently have in terms of advancement. When the Second Amendment was put into effect there was no such thing as civilians owning automatic rifles, or even explosives. The founders were ahead of their time and for this reason they inserted the “Elastic Clause”. They knew times were going to change, as well as advancements that would later create momentous change. Some other implied powers can include setting a Federal minimum wage, and the ability to still do a military draft when needed.
III. Enumerated Powers of the Executive
When talking about the Executive branch, the president is deemed to be the head; putting him in charge of executing and putting the laws into effect. The laws which the executive branch puts into effect come from the Congress branch. The Executive branch works closely with Congress; and without this relationship it leaves the president vulnerable. The president of the United States of America plays a variety of roles. Many of his powers consist of enumerated powers, along with implied powers, and most importantly delegated powers which are granted by Congress. Congress grants the President delegated powers, for him to execute, and carry out the laws Congress has passed. One of the roles the president plays is Chief Executive; with his duty being to carry out the laws of the nation. With this power the president can appoint individuals to thousands of administrative positions. Those positions range from his advisors, to heads of large agencies, and lastly lower level administrative staff. One key function that the president can also do is, nominate judges to serve in the federal judiciary. As a Chief Diplomat the president is responsible for shaping the U.S. foreign policy; as well as interacting with foreign head leaders who oversee their nations. Having the ability to do that is very significant because it creates a form of understanding. Having an understanding with foreign leaders increases the level of communication; allowing for conflicts to be solved. As a Chief legislator the president can sometimes get away with it a successfully veto laws made by Congress. Vetoes usually occur during times that the government is divided within the political party which is opposite to the presidents. For example, is the president is republican, and the majority of the seats in congress are democrat; this would create conflict between the both. Both political parties have the greater good of the nation but share different agendas in political views. An example of this includes the democrat view on being pro-choice, regarding the issue of abortion. Pro-choice gives the mother the ability to choose what she does with the birth of her baby. In opposition, the republicans are pro-life. Being pro-life means that every child in the whom deserves to live disregarding the mothers choice; by enforcing it and making it illegal to abort a birth. The president also assumes the position of Commander in Chief. As Commander in Chief the president can declare war. “It was noted that Congress was the one who attained the power but later given to the president; with the fear that the nation might be unable to respond quickly to threats when Congress was not in session” (Abernathy pg.59-60). Lastly, the president of the United States of America can pardon. The president can Pardon those who have committed offenses against the United States. “Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Case of Impeachment”. This is usually done in the final days of office, which usually leads to controversy. It leads to controversy because those who have a close personal or professional tie to the president; can get that pardon.
III. The Expanded Powers of the Executive
If we look at the implied powers of the president; they consist of the ability to make treaties, receive foreign Ambassadors, and to do Executive agreements. The president can make treaties with foreign countries, but it does require a 2/3rd vote from Senate. The loophole to this is that when the president does an Executive agreement, he does not require Senates approval.
IV. Enumerated Powers of the Judiciary
The Judicial branch is a system of federal courts which establish the Supreme Court to be the highest in the land; following lower federal courts. Their job is to interpret the law and to administer justice accordingly. The Judicial branch decides on arguments about the meaning of laws, and whether they break the rules of the U.S. constitution. Some of the other powers include the ability to hear appeals, judicial review, and lastly controversies between two or more states.
IV. Expanded Powers of the Judiciary
The implied powers not included in the constitution includes the description of the power of judicial review. The judicial review gives the judicial branch of government the authority to determine if a law is or is not in violation of the highest law of the land. The combination of judicial review and the supremacy clause; later became a factor which protected civil liberties and civil rights.
V. Checks and Balances
Checks and Balances in the U.S. government plays a significant role; which was put in place to ensure that no one branch would become too powerful. The framers built this system to divided power among the three branches of the U.S. government consisting of the legislative, executive, and judicial. It allows each branch to perform certain duties that can in fact become questionable by others; allowing actions to be conducted to ensure equality among all three. If this system was not in place, then there would be one branch of government which dictated the entire United States system. Each branch has a list of functions which they can perform to get their duties done; yet their expanded powers makes them more functional. All three branches have a set of expanded powers which are not listed under the constitution. One example of Checks and Balances includes, Congress passing a bill, which the president has the power to veto that bill; but in return Congress can override the veto by a two-thirds vote of both houses. If this system didn’t exist, then either branch would have the ability to get away with anything.
“MY THESIS IS” When taking things into consideration, the Legislative branch is the most powerful; with its ability to create laws, borrow money, collect taxes, regulate commerce, and most importantly develop a social contract with its citizens in return of ensuring safety and maintaining order. When we look at the function of each branch, we can clearly see that although power is meant to be equal; congress seems to be the more powerful one. They have an “Elastic Clause” which gives them the ability to perform anything if they are “Necessary and Proper”. Congress not only has the flexibility to expand its powers but the fact that it creates laws which are then carried out by the Executive branch. The Executive branch is nothing without the proper support and understanding of Congress. Just like it was noted, the president would be vulnerable without the support of Congress. It was intended to be this way to avoid a repeat of the weaknesses the Articles of Confederation had. As we saw, the biggest weakness of the Articles of Confederation was that the states had the most power. People wanted to have a weaker government and ultimately it failed. Congress had no ability to regulate commerce, collect taxes; and or create money. Congress had to borrow money to fight the Revolutionary War; resulting in them unable to pay. With all these changes, Congress became the most powerful, accommodating the small restriction of freedom with the social contract.
- Abernathy, Scott Franklin. American Government: Stories of a Nation.CQ Press, a Division of SAGE, 2019.
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