December 2, 2010 Constitution Study with Douglas V. Gibbs, Temecula, California
Article I Review, Article II Preview
Article I establishes the Legislature.
Section 1 of the first article establishes the two parts of Congress, and grants all legislative powers to the two houses of Congress.
Herein: Within this document, meaning that the authorities of the federal government are contained "herein."
Granted: Legally transferred, meaning that the authorities of the federal government are given to them through a legal transfer of power by the authority of this social contract between the States and the newly formed federal government. The "givers" of these powers are noted in the Preamble: We The People of the United States (note United States is in the plural, meaning that it is not being stated in the Preamble as a single nation, but as a collection of sovereign states).
Vested: Legally transferred, meaning that the We the People of the United States give the power to legislate to the U.S. Congress, provided that the laws made are within the authorities granted by the U.S. Constitution.
Section 2 defines the House of Representatives. The members of the House are divided among the States proportionally. The House of Representatives is the voice of the people in the federal government.
Section 3 defines the U.S. Senate. Senators were originally appointed by the legislatures of the individual States. This was changed in 1913 through the 17th Amendment. Each State has equal suffrage in the Senate, meaning each state has the same amount of Senators, two each. The Vice President is introduced in this section as the President of the Senate, who may be involved in all proceedings if he so desires, but his vote only matters if there is a tie. The U.S. Senate was the voice of the States in the federal government.
Section 4 establishes that each State may have its own methods for electing members of the Congress, and mandates, or requirements, and that Congress must meet at least once per year. Understanding this, it becomes clear that when the hanging chad controversy arose (Gore/Bush), the legal case should have only gone as high as the State Supreme Court. The federal government had no authority over that case, as per this section.
Section 5 indicates that Congress must have a minimum number of members present in order to meet, and if the Congress deems it necessary, may set fines for members who do not show up. Section 5 states that each house may have its own rules, keep a journal to record proceedings and votes, and that neither house may adjourn without the permission of the other.
Section 6 goes over compensation, and the rules regarding such. Section 6 also establishes that members of Congress may not be detained while traveling to and from Congress, and that they cannot hold any other office in government while in Congress. This section also indicates that no member of Congress shall be appointed to a later office if while in Congress the office was created, or a raise in pay was enacted for that office - Secretary of State received a raise while Hillary Clinton was in the Senate, so technically she was not eligible for the position when she was appointed. To fix this, the Democrats applied the Saxby Fix, meaning they undid the raise, and Hillary receives the compensation that was in place before the vote she participated in while in the Senate. Saxby Fix: Salary rollback.
Section 7 explains how bills become law. Any bill that raises taxes or fees must be proposed in the House of Representatives, giving "The People" the purse strings. All bills must pass both houses of Congress in the exact same form. When they are not the same, that is when a new vote for one of the bills must be established, or reconciliation is used, which still requires another vote. As the government had been established, the process allowed the people (House of Representatives) and the States (U.S. Senate) to both have the opportunity to approve the bill before it went to the Executive. If the bill is vetoed by the President, it can be overridden by a two-thirds majority by both houses. This allowed the People to constrain the States, the States to constrain the People, and for them to together constrain the federal government (Executive Branch).
Section 8 lists the authorities of Congress. Since Congress has the sole power to make law, this is also commonly referred to as the list of powers of the federal government.
Section 9 is a prohibitive section, placing limits on Congress.
Section 10 is a prohibitive section, placing limits on the States.
One will note that the authorities given to the federal government all have a common theme - they are for promoting, preserving, and protecting the union. After all, the primary purpose for the writing of the U.S. Constitution was in order to form a more perfect union.
Article II establishes the Executive Branch.
Section 1 establishes the offices of President and Vice President. The election process is by the Electoral College. Originally the State Legislatures appointed the electors, but that was later changed in 1824 to a direct vote of the electors by the people. The change was technically unconstitutional because no amendment was proposed and ratified. Section 1 also requires the President to be a Natural Born Citizen of the United States, as well as establishing his compensation.
Section 2 gives the President some important powers. As Commander in Chief of the armed forces, and of the militias of all the states, he is able to wage war. Declaration of war, and the funding of war, is reserved to the Congress. Section 2 also states that the President may have a cabinet to assist him, but that the appointees must be through the advice and consent of Congress. He make make treaties with other nations, but the treaties must be ratified by the Senate. He may also pick judges, and other members of government, but once again none of this can be done without the approval of the Senate. This is where the constitutionality of "czars" comes in question.
Section 3 establishes the duties of the President, such as giving a State of the Union Address, making suggestions to Congress, acting as head of state by receiving ambassadors and other heads of state, and ensuring that the laws of the United States are executed.
Section 4 explains impeachment.
United States is a federation of states, not a nationalistic entity. Two quotes that show this to be true from the Founding Fathers:
"Governments, in general, have been the result of force, of fraud, and accident. After a period of six thousand years has elapsed since the creation, the United States exhibit to the world the first instance, as far as we can learn, of a nation, unattacked by external force, unconvulsed by domestic insurrections, assembling voluntarily, deliberating fully, and deciding calmly concerning that system of government under which they would wish that they and their prosperity should live." -- James Wilson, November 26, 1787 in remarks in Pennsylvania ratifying convention.
“The United States enjoy a scene of prosperity and tranquility under the new government that could hardly have been hoped for.” George Washington in a letter to Catherine Macaulay Graham, July 19, 1791.
Thank You to Faith Armory, 27498 Enterprise Circle West, #2 in Temecula, California, for the use of their classroom.