Here, in the nation's capitol, we're snoozing away under snow and ice.
For the eighth time. I think. I've honestly lost count.
It's all good. I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, so I have mad snow skills. Just thought they wouldn't do me much good in VA.
Well, time and technology has allowed for improvements in education, so I am doing my second snow-E day with my students. We've got tests to prep for, no time to delay.
If I go through this unit thematically, there are definitely some great topics we should review.
The Formal Constitution: Logistics
1. Who is the President? A2S1C5 gives us the Qualifications clause, and tells us at a minimum the POTUS must be a "natural born citizen," live in the US for 14 (non-consecutive) years, and be 35. That's it. What about education, experience, gender, religion...? Those qualifications are tended to by the electorate. Whatever appeals to them is what "we" like.
2. How do they become POTUS? A2S1C3-4 establishes the electoral process, which is an indirect presidential election (unhinged from the Congress, which was debated... the validity of allowing the POTUS to be chosen by the legislatures.) I tested over this a while back, so we won't be spending too much time here. It was changed in 1804 under the 12th Amendment to make the election of POTUS and VP separate... instead of the second place finisher in the EC taking VP. What a mess, if that were still in tact. This was done to make room for the creation and customary practice of partisan politics that GW had warned us against. Oh well. If he only knew how out of control it would get. But we need to have linkage institutions that enable the offices to be filled in a somewhat logical manner. According to the 22nd Amendment, the President has established term limits. They are two terms or ten years, which ever comes last. I know the math doesn't add up, but remember that if a VP assumes the office of the Presidency, we have to count those years. Therefore, VPs who serve two or less years of their predecessors terms get two more terms of their own. A single day more than two years leaves them with one more term.
3. What happens when the POTUS is unable to discharge his duties? According to the Constitution, the VP steps up. The POTUS Disability Clause (A2S1C6) vests that power to the VP (one of two formal powers of the VP.) Congress tinkered with this after we had issues with disabled or even assassinated Presidents. The 25th Amendment gave the VP a vehicle to formally strip powers from a POTUS incapable of performing his duties. He can, with support from half of the Cabinet, send a letter to Congress establishing disability. Congress will transfer the power over to the VP until the President can write to ask for the powers back (provided the VP and 1/2 the cabinet does not object.) After that, the Presidential Succession Act spells out who will take over after those offices formally listed in the 25th Amendment, which is the Speaker, the President pro temp, and the Secretaries of each of the Cabinet-level departments, in order of date of creation of said departments.
4. Does the President enjoy any special privileges? Presidents have asserted that they enjoy privileges similar, but identical, to the Speech and Debate Clause (A1S6C1). There is an inherent power to refuse disclosure of sensitive information to Congress and/or courts, otherwise known as executive privilege. These claims have generally centered around conversations between the President and their closest advisors. Only the President can choose to disclose sensitive and vital information; to be compelled would keep the President from having the best advice. However, because it is not an expressed power in the Constitution, Congress has contested this power. The courts are reticent to make a decision. The closest the courts came to recognition of this power is in United States v Nixon (1974), where the court stated that this privilege may exist but does not cover criminal actions of a President or his staff. (ehhemm. Rule of Law).
The Formal President: Powers
1. Executive Powers: Look to A2S1C1, the Vestment Clause, and A2S1C8, the Oath of Office, for the formal vesting of executive powers in the President. Here, there are two formal requirements: The President must faithfully execute the laws and defend and protect the Constitution. Significant to note, the modern presidency has many different vehicles to help the President decide the direction that the federal government will pursue. He is working daily with the staff agencies (those found in the Executive Office of the President) to decide policy initiatives. He releases executive orders directing the bureaucracy that direction to take, as well as well as proclamations and other legal vehicles. Specifically, executive orders must be issued pursuant to a law already in the Federal Register, and generally direct the bureaucracy in execution of a law. Lately, the usage of Presidential Signing Statements has been a controversial turn of events. Around since the presidency of Monroe, they were originally used to clarify situations which the President thought may be unconstitutional, and provided his rationale as to how to resolve these issues. President Bush's use of PSSs were often used at the point of a bill signing that the President believed the law unconstitutional, and while he was signing it into law he did not intend to execute the bill. Somewhat similar to the concept of the line-item veto, found unconstitutional in 1998, the American Bar Association released their determination that these actions are unconstitutional (A1S7), and the president should just veto a bill if he does not believe it to be unconstitutional. (What is the line-item veto? Why are we talking about it again?)
2. Commander-in-Chief: Found in A2S2C1, the President is the commander-in-chief. This power is vested in one man so that the President can take decisive action as necessary. This means that the President can respond immediately to threats to national security, as well as to our allies, without Congressional approval. Depending on how you interpret the Constitution, the extent to which the President shares the power to engage the military is debatable. The ability to declare war is more of a legal definition as to the state of the relationship between two nations. This changes the extent to which diplomats are exchanged, etc. Congress's real power comes from their power of the purse, or ability to appropriate funds. The War Powers Act of 1973 is the greatest law that tests the shared powers, and requires notice of all troops in any activities within 48 hours, and limits the troops engagement in 60 day increments. If permission is not granted, Congress ceases funding for the engagement. However, ill-fated military engagements are generally blamed on the President, and not Congress.
3. Chief of State/Chief Diplomat: While the President must receive the advice and consent of the Senate for treaties, the President can circumvent the Senate's shared powers by issuing executive agreements. They must be grounded in previously passed treaties (which all treaties have the force of law). Today, this power is a bit eroded, as modern Presidents have received less advice and more consent for treaties. It remains that the President is the highest ranking diplomat, negotiating with other heads of state on our behalf. (A2S2C2)
The President's role as Chief of State (A2S2C2) are the more symbolic actions, where the majesty of the office and the esteem of our country is transferred onto that individual while s/he holds the office. An analogy for the Chief of State is to consider the types of actions that the Queen of England performs, as she reigns but is not sovereign.
The actions that the President takes as Chief Citizen can be seen as an extension of Chief of State... when s/he speaks for the citizens of the country as a citizen. S/he is the only elected representative who is responsible to the entire country's electorate, and s/he will frequently advocate on our behalf. The SOTU (A2S3C1) is a great example of this in action.
4. Chief Legislator: **CHECKS AND BALANCES ALERT** The President's messaging power, derived from the State of the Union (A2S3C1) and his role in the legislative process (Presentment clause, A1S7) establish a book end on the legislative process. The president frequently introduces major policy initiatives in the campaign process, and carries them through their term in the yearly State of the Union. While presidents have different styles of leadership, they all aim to get their policies through Congress. Think of LBJ and the Great Society, Ronald Reagan pushing through tax reform, Bush and the Patriot Act, and Obama and ACA. They have used themselves, as well as their administration to exact their will on Congress. Occasionally, this requires the use of other linkage institutions, like parties (Remember, the President is the Chief of their Party, and is the principal member of the party in power, theirs!), policy institutes, special interest, and the media. (Roll out the bully pulpit!)
5. Chief Administrator: The Constitution was intentionally vague about the location of the bureaucracy. While the President was granted the ability to appoint principal officers (A2S2), as well as to require their advice from time to time, there is little other mention as to how precisely the execution of the law would fall. It was via acts of Congress granting the President the power to dismiss bureaucrats that the full scope of the executive branch took shape. To this day, there are only 16 bureaucracies outside of the reach of the President (11 tied to Congress, including the Library of Congress, the Congressional Research Service, and the Congressional Budget Office and 5 tied to the Courts). All others are directly appointed by the President. This is particularly important when considering the shear size of the federal government... Some 2.7 million civilian employees under the direction of the President alone! The POTUS cannot be tasked with the daily execution of law, for it is too wide ranging and detail oriented. It becomes particularly important that he is able to appoint like minded subject matter experts to carry out the day to day operation. They often consult with the President, but do not necessarily have to.
As Chief Administrator, the President also gets an additional check and balance that is to become the lasting legacy of the President. They get to nominate individuals to fill judicial vacancies. This enables the President's nominees to justify pet policies (in theory; judges are supposed to be non-partisan... but they are generally predictable because of their interpretation of the Constitution) or foil those who do not agree with the President. Remember the efforts that FDR went to with the proposition to pack the courts and thereby prevent the judges from overturning the New Deal. In all, FDR appointed 9 justices! WOW!
One final power the President has is the power to pardon (vacate convictions). Super important, because the President can commute (shorten) sentences, or even remove guilt. This has been used as a political weapon over time. For example, JFK in effect pardoned people incarcerated for the first time under the Narcotics Control Act of 1956, thereby undoing the act of Congress.
And if this is not enough... try this...
I want to start by thanking Mr. Snowden and Mr. Greenwald for their uncompromising dedication to giving the NSA violations air time and transparency. I wanted to share some of the most important things I have learned from this book bef...
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
by Bill Bishop
tagged: nerdcation and to-read
I lovgov. LOVE IT! I love teaching government, learning about it, debating, discussing, asking questions about government. And not the standard boiler plate questions, but the hard ones that are NOT in the books.