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Time for a Return to Checks and Balances
Townhall.com ^ | June 12, 2011 | Ken Connor

Posted on 06/12/2011 6:32:04 AM PDT by Kaslin

In December, 2007, the Boston Globe published a Q&A with then-candidate Barack Obama in which the subject of Executive War Powers was addressed. "In what circumstances, if any," Charlie Savage asked, "would the president have constitutional authority to bomb Iran without seeking a use-of-force authorization from Congress?" Mr. Obama's answer was unequivocal in its condemnation of unilateral executive action relating to war:

"The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. . . . In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action."

Senator Obama went on to address specifically the question of offensive military action Iran, again reiterating his commitment to explicit congressional authorization and suggesting that diplomacy should always precede any decision to go to war:

"As for the specific question about bombing suspected nuclear sites, I recently introduced S.J. Res. 23, which states in part that 'any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress.' The recent NIE tells us that Iran in 2003 halted its effort to design a nuclear weapon. While this does not mean that Iran is no longer a threat to the United States or its allies, it does give us time to conduct aggressive and principled personal diplomacy aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons."

My, what a difference an election makes. The Senator who made criticism of George W. Bush's "imperial presidency" a cornerstone of his campaign is now, as President, quite oblivious to his own constitutional limitations with regard to executive power. Indeed, it has been observed that President Obama's disregard for the limits of his office exceed anything conceived by his predecessor.

It's encouraging, then, that a bipartisan coalition of representatives have decided to put the Constitution ahead of politics with a resolution taking the President to task for continuing to appropriate resources to the Libyan war effort without congressional approval. Although the resolution doesn't have any real "teeth" behind it, the principle behind it is one that has been increasingly neglected in our republic.

If the Founding Fathers understood anything, it was power's tendency to concentrate itself. This is why our government is constructed the way it is, with authority distributed equally among three branches of government. In recent years, however, the federal government has conducted itself more like a three-ring circus than a constitutional republic. Our judges have gotten into the habit of legislating from the bench, our representatives have become so corrupt, decadent and inefficient that they've rendered themselves practically obsolete, and our Presidents have come to preside over a powerful, bureaucratic fiefdom that operates with virtual autonomy.

President Obama has insisted that his actions thus far are in accordance with the War Powers Act, yet he has allowed the timeframe for congressional approval to expire and appears intent on an ambiguous and open-ended financial commitment to the war in Libya. At this point neither the Congress nor the American people know what to make of our involvement in Libya. Why are we there? Why Libya and not Egypt? Why not Syria? Why not Iran? Are we to satisfy ourselves with the President's assurances that "he has his reasons," and leave it at that?

Say what you want about President Bush's motives for pursuing a congressional resolution for war with Iraq, at least he secured a resolution. He respected the process. Despite this he was condemned by the Liberal Left as the most dishonest, unlawful, and villainous war-monger ever to occupy the White House. It is ironic that now those who abhorred the vast expansion of executive power under the Bush administration are witnessing its continued growth under the governance of the man who promised them hope and change.

All politics aside, the question at issue is quite simple: Does the Constitution mean what it says or not? Or perhaps the question should be, Do we care was the Constitution says, or not?

Thomas Jefferson said, "Our peculiar security is in the possession of a written Constitution. Let us not make it a blank paper by construction." The exercise of checks and balances help assure that the federal government acts in the limited fashion intended. Do we want Presidents to be able to commit American lives and resources to foreign hostilities without restraint? Do we want a Congress that is impotent in the face of an executive who deliberately usurps powers that don't rightly belong to him?

If the recent action by the House of Representatives is any indication, the answer is no. This is a good thing. Perhaps it's the only thing our two parties can agree on. At least it's a start.


TOPICS: Editorial
KEYWORDS: checksandbalances; imperialism; imperialpresidency; obama; warpowers

1 posted on 06/12/2011 6:32:06 AM PDT by Kaslin
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To: Kaslin
I saw a bumper sticker the other day:

Washington, D.C.

All checks

No balances

2 posted on 06/12/2011 6:39:49 AM PDT by ProudFossil
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To: Kaslin
Time for a Return to Checks and Balances

It's going to take reversing about seventy-five years of constitutional breach to do that. Will take at least sixteen years straight of steady no-nonsense conservative POTUS at the helm and hope for the best in Congress.

With sixteen years of true "I get it" conservatives as POTUS (Palin and the her 2016 true conservative VP to be elected in 2020) we would stand a good chance of getting a conservative majority in SCOTUS with the goal of reversing previous unconstitutional decisions like Roe v. Wade and using the Commerce Clause to regulate anything that moves.

3 posted on 06/12/2011 6:44:50 AM PDT by PapaNew
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To: ProudFossil
Washington, D.C. All checks. No balances.

That's a good one.

4 posted on 06/12/2011 6:46:12 AM PDT by PapaNew
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To: Kaslin
We should amend the Commerce Clause so that it says what it says and not what they want it to say (which is: "The federal government shall be empowered to do anything it wants as long as it mumbles something about the Commerce Clause").

That wouldn't fix everything, but it would be an important part of any fix.

5 posted on 06/12/2011 6:56:35 AM PDT by ClearCase_guy (The USSR spent itself into bankruptcy and collapsed -- and aren't we on the same path now?)
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To: Kaslin; penelopesire
Great find ping!
--------------

Baraq Obama, Dec 2007: "The President does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation. . . . In instances of self-defense, the President would be within his constitutional authority to act before advising Congress or seeking its consent. History has shown us time and again, however, that military action is most successful when it is authorized and supported by the Legislative branch. It is always preferable to have the informed consent of Congress prior to any military action."

6 posted on 06/12/2011 7:04:26 AM PDT by Hoodat (Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. - (Rom 8:37))
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To: Hoodat

Wow...the second paragraph is even more stunning:

“Senator Obama went on to address specifically the question of offensive military action Iran, again reiterating his commitment to explicit congressional authorization and suggesting that diplomacy should always precede any decision to go to war:

“As for the specific question about bombing suspected nuclear sites, I recently introduced S.J. Res. 23, which states in part that ‘any offensive military action taken by the United States against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress.’ The recent NIE tells us that Iran in 2003 halted its effort to design a nuclear weapon. While this does not mean that Iran is no longer a threat to the United States or its allies, it does give us time to conduct aggressive and principled personal diplomacy aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.”

Someone should have seen the writing on the wall way back then. Obama is so protective of Iran that he introduced a bill that would stop Bush from bombing Iran’s nuclear sites?

Chilling....


7 posted on 06/12/2011 7:33:16 AM PDT by penelopesire (Let The Congressional Hearings Begin!)
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To: Kaslin
Thanks!

Young Americans need to be taught about the structural safeguards for their liberty provided by America's Founders. Power-hungry tyrants ignore the safeguards, believing "the People" to be uninformed and ignorant.

The following essay is reprinted, with permission, from "Our Ageless Constitution," a 1987 Bicentennial volume, available here. The single essay may be downloaded here.

 

Checks and Balances

The Constitutional Structure For
Limited And Balanced
Government

The Constitution was devised with an ingenious and intricate built-in system of checks and balances to guard the people's liberty against combinations of government power. It structured the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary separate and wholly independent as to function, but coordinated for proper operation, with safeguards to prevent usurpations of power. Only by balancing each against the other two could freedom be preserved, said John Adams.

Another writer of the day summarized clearly the reasons for such checks and balances:

  • "If the LEGISLATIVE and JUDICIAL powers are united, the MAKER of the law will also INTERPRET it (constitutionality).

  • Should the EXECUTIVE and LEGISLATIVE powers be united... the EXECUTIVE power would make itself absolute, and the government end in tyranny.

  • Should the EXECUTIVE and JUDICIAL powers be united, the subject (citizen) would then have no permanent security of his person or property.

"INDEED, the dependence of any of these powers upon either of the others ... has so often been productive of such calamities... that the page of history seems to be one continued tale of human wretchedness." (Theophilus Parsons, ESSEX RESULTS)

What were some of these checks and balances believed so important to individual liberty? Several are listed below:

  • HOUSE (peoples representatives) is a check on SENATE - no statute becomes law without its approval.

  • SENATE is a check on HOUSE - no statute becomes law without its approval. (Prior to 17th Amendment, SENATE was appointed by State legislatures as a protection for states' rights - another check the Founders provided.)

  • EXECUTIVE (President) can restrain both HOUSE and SENATE by using Veto Power.

  • LEGISLATIVE (Congress - Senate & House) has a check on EXECUTIVE by being able to pass, with 2/3 majority, a bill over President's veto.

  • LEGISLATIVE has further check on EXECUTIVE through power of discrimination in appropriation of funds for operation of EXECUTIVE.

  • EXECUTIVE (President) must have approval of SENATE in filling important posts in EXECUTIVE BRANCH.

  • EXECUTIVE (President) must have approval of SENATE before treaties with foreign nations can be effective.

  • LEGISLATIVE (Congress) can conduct investigations of EXECUTIVE to see if funds are properly expended and laws enforced.

  • EXECUTIVE has further check on members of LEGISLATIVE (Congress) in using discretionary powers in decisions regarding establishment of military bases, building & improvement of navigable rivers, dams, interstate highways, etc., in districts of those members.

  • JUDICIARY is check on LEGISLATIVE through its authority to review all laws and determine their constitutionality.

  • LEGISLATIVE (Congress) has restraining power over JUDICIARY, with con­stitutional authority to restrict extent of its jurisdiction.

  • LEGISLATIVE has power to impeach members of JUDICIARY guilty of treason, high crimes, or misdemeanors.

  • EXECUTIVE (President) is check on JUDICIARY by having power to nominate new judges.

  • LEGISLATIVE (Senate) is check on EXECUTIVE and JUDICIARY having power to approve/disapprove nominations of judges.

  • LEGISLATIVE is check on JUDICIARY - having control of appropriations for operation of federal court system.

  • LEGISLATIVE (Peoples Representatives) is check on both EXECUTIVE and J U DICIARY through power to initiate amendments to Constitution subject to approval by 3/4 of the States.

  • LEGISLATIVE (Senate) has power to impeach EXECUTIVE (President) with concurrence of 2/3, of members.

  • The PEOPLE, through their State representatives, may restrain the power of the federal LEGISLATURE if 3/4 of the States do not ratify proposed Constitutional Amendments.

  • LEGISLATIVE, by Joint Resolution, can terminate certain powers granted to EXECUTIVE (President) (such as war powers) without his consent.

  • It is the PEOPLE who have final check on both LEGISLATIVE and EXECUTIVE when they vote on their Representatives every 2 years, their Senators every 6 years, and their President every 4 years. Through those selections, they also influence the potential makeup of the JUDICIARY.

It is up to each generation to see that the integrity of the Constitutional structure for a free society is maintained by carefully preserving the system of checks and balances essential to limited and balanced government. "To preserve them (is) as necessary as to institute them," said George Washington.


Footnote: Our Ageless Constitution, W. David Stedman & La Vaughn G. Lewis, Editors (Asheboro, NC, W. David Stedman Associates, 1987, reprinted 2008) Part III:  ISBN 0-937047-01-5


8 posted on 06/12/2011 8:38:07 AM PDT by loveliberty2
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To: PapaNew
No number of years of "conservative" rule from Washington is going to make even the slightest bit of difference. That is because the problem is not at its core who the rulers du jour in Washington are.

The core of the problem is that the foundational check on the powers of the Federal Government in our system is, or at least was, the Sovereignty of the States in domestic affairs. The Constitutional separation of powers between the departments of the Federal Government were never intended to restrict its powers in the absence of pre-eminent States. And, naturally they do not accomplish this goal.

So rally around the latest national party offering. Get out the vote for the "real conservative" inthe race. But don't expect anything to change until a majority of the voting citizens again understand how the system was constructed.

9 posted on 06/12/2011 8:48:06 AM PDT by trek
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To: trek
Well, you're starting to point to our core issues which are spiritual. I'll share an earlier post about our origins and what I think it really takes in the long run to heal our country and recover and maintain our freedoms:

America is a Christian nation and the freedoms we have come from Christian values and principles. Take Christianity away from America and soon Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness will also be gone (as we see being phased out now).

People get confused about the free exercise of religion and Congress not establishing religion. This confusion is encouraged by the liberals who love confusion and have used the Jeffersonian metaphor to trump the U.S. Constitution itself, because the liberals HATE the Constitution and HATE your freedom.

The establishment of religion is Congress ("the state") interfering with religion. The church may want the state to establish a church or not, it doesn't matter. Congress is constitutionally prohibited from doing so. Period. However, the free exercise of religion should be in every nook in cranny inside and outside Washington D.C. and everywhere else. The monuments in that great city testify against the lies about Christianity in government. Our country grew up and thrived with Christian practice all over the government. And the Constitution prohibits any interference with the free exercise of religion anywhere, as long as it is a peaceful exercise.

The Christian church, God’s people, has the means of helping and healing nations. Revelation 22:2 presents a symbolic picture of the benefits of God's people, the Church, in government when it shows that the leaves of the tree of life, symbolically found in God's people, the Bride, the Church, heal the nations.

10 posted on 06/12/2011 8:53:31 AM PDT by PapaNew
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To: trek

Well, that is true. A debauched people will not send many modern day Madisons, Wilsons, Randolphs to Congress and La Casa Blanca.

As long as the citizens and illegals and the dead send Weiners, Wasserman-Shutlzs, and Sheila Jackson Lees, there is little hope for a renewal.


11 posted on 06/12/2011 12:52:19 PM PDT by Jacquerie
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