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Constitution Revolution: Why The President Can’t Avoid Congress

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This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series for TheBlaze.com and TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo Show. To see last week’s lesson, click here.

Before we move on from Article 1, Section 7, let’s take one last look at how a bill becomes a law. It’s worth spending some time on this part of the Constitution because it does a fantastic job of illustrating the difference between how our Founders approached government – and how we’ve approached government over the last 100 years.

Our Founders knew that we would have politicians who would try to get around whatever system we had. And they were right.

It’s inevitable that we will have politicians who will try to find any loophole that will allow them to get what they want even when everyone else opposes their ideas. So when our Constitution was written, a lot of time was spent trying to figure out what types of dirty tricks and dishonest games our public officials would try to play—and then coming up with ways to guard against those.

For an example of that, take a look at the end of Article 1, Section 7. After explaining the basics of how a bill becomes a law, it says:

“If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.”

Have you ever wondered why those little details were added? I always did.

It turns out, they serve a few very important purposes.

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Constitution Revolution: Our Senators Need to Be More Like Car Salesmen

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Before we get into the lawmaking process that is found in Article 1, Section 7, let’s take a little detour and talk about the process we have for buying new cars.

In the standard system for selling new cars, you have a manufacturer who builds the car and sells that car to a dealer. The dealer then turns around and sells that car to a customer like you or me. It’s a fairly simple system; and for the most part it works very well.

Under that system all three of the people who are involved in the transaction have a voice in the process. Because of that, they can all look out for their own interests. Unless the manufacturer, the dealer, and the customer all agree that the price that the car is being bought and sold for is fair to them, the deal doesn’t go through.

But imagine what would happen if somehow the manufacturer and the customer were able to get together and take away the dealer’s voice in the process. In other words, the manufacturer could say what kind of car it wanted to sell and for how much, and the customer was able to say what kind of car he was willing to buy and for how much.

Meanwhile, the dealer just had to sit there and accept whatever agreement the other two came to.

How do you think that would turn out for the dealers?

It’s not hard to figure out that when the dealer doesn’t have a voice in the process, the other two people are going to take advantage of him. The manufacturer is going to tell the dealer to buy the car at an unreasonably high price and the customer is going to expect the dealer to sell the car at an unreasonably lowprice. Put all that together and the dealer is probably going to go out of business before too long.

With that in mind, let’s look at Article 1, Section 7. In some ways, the process for how a bill becomes a law in this country is very similar to the process we have for buying new cars.

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Constitution Revolution: Why Would the President Look Out For National Interests?

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It looks like I’m lost deep in thought, doesn’t it?

In this week’s article for TheBlaze.com, I mentioned that the president evaluates bills that come to his desk from the perspective of the federal government.  But why would he do that?

As we’ve talked about, the primary reason why the president was granted the power to veto bills was to protect the executive branch from Congressional overreach.  The idea was to make sure that the president had a way to prevent members of Congress from expanding their own power in ways that would infringe on the role of the executive branch.

We should be able to count on the president to do that because—as we learned earlier in this series—it’s human nature for people to love power.  And once a person gets power, they will usually go to great lengths to protect it.  If Congress ever did choose to try to strip a president of some of his power, it’s a pretty good bet that he will do whatever is possible to block that legislation.

That’s a big deal because maintaining the proper separation of powers is a critical part of making sure that the federal government runs properly.

So when the president takes that action to protect his own power from Congress, he is also looking out for the interests of the federal government – even if he does it unintentionally.  In a sense, the president’s most important role in this process is to keep the States (the Senate) and the citizens (the House) from working together to empower themselves at the expense of the federal government.

That’s an important part of the lawmaking process because we need all three parts of our country—the people, the States, and the federal government—to be able to have someone protecting their interests in Washington, D.C.

 

Constitution Revolution: The President is Not a Policy Maker

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This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series for TheBlaze.com and TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo ShowTo see last week’s lesson, click here.

This week, we’re going to stay in Article 1, Section 7 and talk about the lawmaking process. More specifically, we’re going to talk about the president’s role – or lack thereof – in the process of making laws in this country.

Today, we expect our presidents to have a plan and a policy to address every aspect of American life. But the president was never intended to be a policy maker. When it comes to the lawmaking process, all he has is the power to veto. So after Congress has passed a bill, the president gets to give that bill a thumbs up or a thumbs down. That’s about it.

Beyond that, the president wasn’t granted the power to veto because the Founders were particularly interested in hearing what presidents had to say about the bills that were passed. The primary motivation in giving the president a power to veto legislation is so that he could protect the executive branch from Congressional overreach. The Founders wanted to make sure that the president had a way to prevent members of Congress from voting themselves more power and slowly taking over his role of executing the laws in this country.

Just like we did last week, let’s do a quick review on the basics of the Constitutional process for creating laws in this country:

  • A bill has to be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
  • After passing both houses of Congress, the bill is presented to the president. The president can choose to sign it into law or he can veto the bill and send it back to Congress along with his objections.
  • If members of Congress don’t agree with the president’s objections, they can choose to vote on the bill again. If it passes with 2/3 of both houses of Congress, it will become a law despite the president’s objection.

At this point it’s important to clarify that the Constitution provides us with only one process for creating laws – it’s the one we see in Article 1, Section 7. There are no exceptions or asterisks and there isn’t another section of the Constitution that gives the President alternate powers for impacting the legislative process.

To simplify that, after Congress passes a bill, the president can either sign it or he can veto it and send it back to Congress with his objections. That’s the extent of his involvement in the process. The Constitution couldn’t be a whole lot clearer about that.

But let’s take a second to look at just a few of the unconstitutional ways that laws are being made or changed today:

You might notice that none of these methods for creating or amending laws is mentioned in Article 1, Section 7. That’s because they are simply new inventions that our politicians have come up with over the years – and they all serve to make the executive branch much more powerful.

You might also have noticed that each of these newly invented ways of making laws gives the president the ability to bypass Congress in order to get the laws that he wants. But as with so much that goes on in Washington, D.C. today, that is completely backwards.

The Constitution does give Congress the authority to bypass the president and make laws completely on its own (by overriding the president’s veto). But it doesn’t give the president any way of bypassing Congress and making or changing laws entirely on his own. That alone tells us that – when it comes to the lawmaking process – what Congress wants is much more important than what the president wants.

It’s so important for us to realize that our president was never intended to be a policy maker. His role in the legislative process should be minor at best. Remember, under our system of government we have a separation of powers. And for good reason.

As Thomas Jefferson put it:

“It is not by the consolidation or concentration of powers but by their distribution that good government is effected.”

But when we allow the executive branch to increasingly bypass Congress when making or changing our laws, we are destroying that separation and concentrating a breathtaking amount of power in one branch of government.

It’s not hard to see why putting the power to create or change the laws that bind everyone in this country – as well as the power to execute those laws – into the hands of just one person is a terrible idea.

If nothing else, look at it this way: we now expect any person who wants to be president to spend over $1 billion in an effort to get elected. Any political office that is worth spending $1 billion to win is an office that is far too powerful to be safely entrusted to any one person.

Constitution Revolution: The Supreme Court Decided in Favor of Tyranny-care

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This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series for TheBlaze.com and TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo ShowTo see last week’s lesson, click here.

Over the years, quite a few people have asked me why I generally don’t write about or comment on new Supreme Court decisions very often. There’s actually a very good reason for that. You see, I write about and teach the Constitution. Unfortunately, Supreme Court decisions rarely have anything at all to do with what the Constitution actually says.

So you’ll have to forgive me for not going out of my way to read through endless pages of tortured logic that are completely unrelated to the topic I’m passionate about. This week’s King v. Burwell decision is a perfect example of that; the actions that the Court took in order to save Obamacare from itself are found nowhere in the Constitution.

th-1It’s time to talk about Article 1, Section 7. That works out perfectly for discussing King v. Burwell because Article 1, Section 7 is the part of the Constitution that gives us the process for creating laws in this country.

At this point, it’s important to point out that there is one—and only one—Constitutional method for creating or changing laws in this country and it’s the one we find in Article 1, Section 7. It’s also the method that you probably learned about in school or by watching School House Rocks. Here’s how it goes:

  • A bill must be passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
  • Once a bill has passed both houses of Congress, the president can either sign it into law or veto it and send it back to Congress.
  • If the bill is vetoed, Congress can over-ride the president’s veto and enact it into law with a 2/3 vote.

If you look carefully at that process you might notice something important: The Supreme Court isn’t mentioned anywhere. That tells us that the Supreme Court has absolutely no role to play in creating or amending our laws. None. Zero. Zip.

The justices simply have the power to judge laws as they were enacted.

With that in mind, let’s look at what happened in King v. Burwell.

In other words, this law was intentionally designed so that anyone who signed up for Obamacare through the exchange created by the federal government wouldn’t be eligible for a subsidy.

Read more at TheBlaze…

Constitution Revolution: The Media vs. The Power of the Purse

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This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series for TheBlaze.com and TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo Show. To see last week’s lesson, click here.

If you’ve read the last few posts in my Constitution Revolution series, you’ve probably noticed a bit of a theme: How the Constitution protects us from the government.

I’ve talked about the fact that the way Congress is structuredthe impeachment process, and even the process we have for deciding how our elections are held were all designed in ways that protect us from the government.

At this point you might be thinking, “That’s all great, but is that the only topic you’re covering? Why aren’t you talking about any of powers that the federal government has?!”

That’s a great question.

So far I’ve covered the Constitution from Article 1, Section 1 all the way through Article 1, Section 6 and I’ve only made one brief mention of a power that was granted to the federal government (and I won’t make another one until we get to Article 1, Section 8 in a couple of weeks).

There’s a very good reason for that. When we’re dealing with government, it’s extremely important to make sure that we are very careful in deciding what powers we will allow the government to use. But as important as that is, it is every bit as important – if not more so – to make sure that we take appropriate steps to protect ourselves from how those powers might be used.

If you think about it, it should be easy to see why. A government is a group of people that we grant the power to make rules for what you can’t do or what you must do; the power to use force to put you in prison; and even the power to take your money away. When you have a group of people in society who have that kind of power, it’s critical for us as private citizens to be very careful to keep that power in check. Otherwise, it could turn very bad for us very quickly.

With that in mind, let’s turn our attention to Article 1, Section 7. The first clause in this section gives us another very powerful tool that we can use to protect ourselves from the people in our government.

Read more at TheBlaze…

And while you’re clicking links, be sure to go over and like my Facebook page!!!

Constitution Revolution: Good Government Means More Than Just Doing What You Think Is Fair

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This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series for TheBlaze.com and TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo ShowTo see last week’s lesson, click here.

Next up in our tour through the Constitution are Article 1, Sections 5 and 6. They are both relatively easy to understand so I encourage you to read the full text of both sections on your own. But as with so many parts of the Constitution, there is a lot we can learn from them.

One of the goals that I have for my posts here at TheBlaze is to raise some questions that will get you thinking about how government works and why. There is a certain science to government and we need to start studying it and taking it seriously again. We should expect our children to be doing a serious exploration of the subject of government in the same way that we expect them to study math or science. It is honestly that important.

Government isn’t just a matter of picking which policies we would like to live under or which policies we think are “fair.” There are some approaches to government that lead to a stable, prosperous society and others that do not. We have to know the difference between the two or we will never get the type of government that we want.

In this way, creating a government is a lot like preparing a nice meal. When you decide to cook dinner for your family, you don’t just randomly throw a bunch of ingredients into a bowl without considering how they would taste together. If you did, there’s no chance at all that you would come out with something edible.

Instead, you decide what dish it is that you are trying to cook ahead of time. Then you pick the ingredients that will create that dish and prepare it in a way that you know will lead to what you are looking for. Cooking requires at least a basic understanding of ingredients and the proper way to prepare them.

Government isn’t any different. If we just start randomly throwing a bunch of policies into our government without thinking about how they will work together, there is no chance that we will end up with the type of government we want.

Read more at TheBlaze….

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Constitution Revolution: Let the Impeachments Begin!

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This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series for TheBlaze.com and TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo Show. To see last week’s lesson, click here.

This post has been updated.

In last week’s post I talked about Article 1, Section 3, but there is one fascinating part that I left out: Impeachment.

Just saying the word “impeachment” stirs up emotion in a lot of people. But even though everyone seems to have an opinion on impeachment, it is a very misunderstood part of our Constitution.

It’s not hard to see why impeachment can be a little bit hard to follow. The process itself isn’t that complicated, but each step in the process gets described in a different section of the Constitution. Unless you look at all three sections at the same time, it can be difficult to see how it’s all supposed to work.

So let’s break down the process all in one place:

  • According to Article 2, Section 4 the people in our government who can be impeached are the president, the vice president, and all civil officers of the United States (which includes judges).
  • If someone is suspected of engaging in an impeachable activity, the House of Representatives can impeach that person by a majority vote. For a public official, being impeached is fairly similar to being indicted in a normal court.
  • After a person has been impeached the case moves over to the Senate where the Senate holds a trial. If 2/3 of the senators present vote to convict the person being tried, he can be removed from office. The only punishment the Senate can impose is to remove a person from office and prevent him from holding public office in the future. Anyone who is impeached for a criminal act can be tried in the regular court system and face further punishment as well.

Notice that being impeached is not the same as being removed from office. It just means that the person is being charged with committing an impeachable offense.

So those are the basics of how the process works on paper. When it comes to applying it to the real world, there are two things that we have to understand for impeachment to be effective.

Read about those two things at TheBlaze…

Constitution Revolution: How One Amendment is Actually Unraveling the Constitution

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This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series for TheBlaze.com and TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo Show. To see last week’s lesson, click here.

This article has been updated.

At first glance, Article 1, Section 3 looks like a very benign part of the Constitution.

All it does is lay out a few details about the Senate and give the qualifications a person needs to have to become a senator. In that way, it mirrors what Article 1, Section 2 does for the House of Representatives.

But tucked away in this section is one of the most important aspects of how our federal government was designed. If you have ever wondered why our federal government has gotten completely out of control, most of the answer lies in this innocent-looking part of the Constitution.

Article 1, Section 3 states that our senators would be appointed by state legislatures. That’s because – and burn this into your memory because it cannot be overemphasized – the original purpose of the Senate was to represent the interests of the state governments in Congress.

One of our most influential Founders, William Richardson Davie, explained it this way:

“The senators represent the sovereignty of the states; they are directly chosen by the state legislatures, and no legislative act can be done without their concurrence.”

What he’s saying here, is because the states would be represented in the Senate, the federal government can’t do much of anything without getting approval from the state governments first.

Read more at TheBlaze…

Constitution Revolution: How Could Anyone Defend the Three-Fifths Clause?

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This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series for TheBlaze.com and TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo Show. To see last week’s lesson, click here.

This post has been updated.

Even for someone like me who loves the United States and feels very blessed to have been born here, we have to acknowledge that there are some parts of our history and our Constitution that are reprehensible. We can’t hide from that. We have to understand these parts of our history and learn as much as we can from them.

But at the same time, there’s no need to go out of our way to make them out to be worse than they already were.

The Three-Fifths Clause that appears in Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution is a perfect example of one of those regrettable parts of our history. Let’s try to put this clause into the proper perspective.

Here is the text of the Three-Fifths Clause:

“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”

Essentially, this clause explains that the number of representatives that each state was going have in the House of Representatives – and the amount of direct taxes that each state would have to pay – would be determined by population.

But even after the Founders agreed that direct taxes and representation should be based on population, that brings up a huge question: How do you count the population?

Should only free people be counted? Or should it be limited to landowners?

The answers to those questions were incredibly important because they were going to determine who would control Congress. So the debate surrounding this clause was basically just one big power struggle where everyone was trying to get the population counted in the way that would benefit themselves most. The moral questions surrounding slavery were almost completely ignored.

Because of that, it actually ended up going the opposite of how most people would expect.

Read more at TheBlaze….

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