THE CONSTITUTION PART III - ARTICLE I THE CONGRESS
When the Constitution was established in 1787, the Constitutional Congress made three distinct and separate branches in the make up of The United States government. Each of the three branches while members of the whole have specific powers granted to them by the Constitution. Powers that create a check and balance system designed to prevent the possible establishment of a single man or group of men controlling the powers and responsibilities of the federal government. A check and balance system that while governed by people elected by the populace are directly answerable to the citizens of The United Sates.
The three branches are, The Executive which is the Presidency. The Legislative which is Congress consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate. And the Judicial which is the Supreme Court and the Federal Court system.
Throughout our history there are many instances where one branch has attempted to over step its bounds but in most cases the check and balance system in the Constitution has corrected and/or prevented any one branch from usurping the powers and the Constitutional authority of the others.
This particular part deals specifically with the Legislative Branch whose duties and authority are defined in Article I of the Constitution. This is the branch of the government that establishes law, raises revenue, provides for and maintains the military, regulates commerce domestic and foreign, legislates Naturalization of immigrants, coins all monies, promote the arts and sciences, declare war, and provide legislative government specifically for Washington DC.
Many of the responsibilities of the Congress especially when that particular issue is in the fore front of American society and is having a negative impact upon the citizenry are credited to the sitting President. One prime example is the issue of illegal immigration. While the President states certain policy it is the Constitutional responsibility of the Congress to establish immigration law and provide for the enforcement of that law. A responsibility that has been a failing of the Congress for quite some time.
One key misconception of the authority of the Congress with the citizens and the elected Representatives themselves which is a pressing issue today is Congressional authority concerning military affairs.
The Constitution states that the specific responsibilities and authority of the Congress to the military are: "To raise and support Armies; To provide and maintain a Navy; To make rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces; To provide for the calling forth of Militia, (today known as the National Guard), to execute laws Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia."
Nowhere in the Constitution does it state that Congress holds any authority for the command decisions, deployment of or use in service of the military. Their lone and distinct responsibility is for provision and maintenance only. The current attempt by the Congress to force through binding resolution authority over deployment and command of the military does not meet the Constitutional authority and responsibilities set for in Article I, Section 7.
Another misconception concerning Constitutional responsibilities and is widely blamed or credited to a sitting President is the sates of the economy. When the economy is bad the President is blamed and when the economy is good the President takes the credit. Both of which are wrong by Constitutional standards. While the President can present economic plans and ideas to the Congress, (which is to his credit IF Congress adopts them), to address issues within the economy, it falls to the Congress to legislate in accordance with those plans or reject them and create plans of their making.
The President has the ability to veto if that plan is not in conjunction with a bill that is vital to America, (the veto will be discussed in a subsequent article). In actuality the growth or failure of The United States economy falls mostly on the actions or lack thereof by the Congress since they control the purse strings through legislation.
The Congress itself has a check and balance system which at times can become very frustrating for we citizens. That system is found in the two Chambers of the Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate. The House through its very make up can run legislation through at a quick and sometimes reckless pace which then must fall to the Senate to sort out through a much slower and more deliberate legislative process amending bills and refining them.
The bills are then sent to Committee to find compromise and finally to the President for approval or veto. If vetoed then the Congress must agree with a two thirds majority to over turn a Presidential veto.
Congress is directly answerable to the people since it is our vote that places them in or removes them from office. The house is more sensitive to this since we select or reject them every tow years. The Senate on the other hand serves for a six year term and because of the 17th Amendment is directly elected as opposes to the original Constitutional provision of appointment by each state legislature. In this writers opinion this Amendment has allowed the Senate to exercise less responsibility to the people and more responsibility to their own well being.
Prior to the 17th Amendment if the people of a particular state were disappointed with the job performance by a Senator, the legislature could remove them from office and appoint another in their place. The six year length of term without the threat of removal by state legislatures allows Senators to exersise less responsibility to the people. Now the removal of a Senator requires impeachment by the same body in which that Senator serves, which is not likely. This Constitutional change in itself has attributed to much of the unfettered growth of the government as Senators throw earmarked bones to the electorate just before re-election.
The Legislative Branch of The United States is a singular representative body answerable to the people as defined in the Constitution and because of this definition finds no other like legislature in any government of any country. All others answer to a monarchy or another body within that government before answering to the citizenry. Our Republic has the distinction because of this accountability of being the only truly government of the people in the world.