Saturday, August 24, 2019
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Constitution Radio with Douglas V. Gibbs
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Friday, August 23, 2019
Author, Speaker, Instructor, Radio Host
If there is anything the Democrats have learned, as Carville once put it, "It's the economy, stupid."
The Trump economy has been one of the top stories during the current presidency. The Democrats at first tried to ignore it. Then, when they had to admit the economy was doing well, they tried to give Obama credit for it. Now, the reality is, they are bleeding voters because voters tend to vote with their pocketbook, and Donald J. Trump as President of the United States has been very good for just about everyone's pocketbook.
As the 2020 Election approaches the Democrat Party has been going off the rails. The socialists have taken over as the indoctrination of the younger generation has come to fruition for the Democrats. However, there is still a significant number of Americans who reject socialism, and there are a lot of Americans who have been horrified by the liberal left's calls for transgenderism, full-term abortions, and impeachment of Mr. Trump. Usually, when these types of things happen, the Democrats simply move to the middle. But, the hard-left progressive base of the party no longer accepts that kind of compromise. So, the Democrats have to find another way to win.
Sure, they'll commit the usual voter fraud and underhanded tactics like ballot harvesting, but they really need something that will bring disfavor upon President Trump. The allegations of racism, sexism, and Russian Collusion didn't work, so now they need to attack Trump where he's been most successful. They need to convince everyone that the Trump economy is not as rosy as people think.
So, suddenly, there is a murmur out there about the possibility of a coming recession. The specter of recession is never good for the controlling political party.
But, what do you do if there is no sign of a recession on the horizon?
For the Democrats, the answer is simple. Lie through your teeth and claim a recession is on the way. If you convince enough people that a recession is on its way, you may be able to create a self-fulfilling prophecy, because investors get nervous, and consumers get careful, which results in a slow-down on Wall Street, and Main Street. And, if things begin slowing down, well, we can call that a recession.
We may try to ignore them for a while, but in the end, the Democrats may be able to, if they lie and deceive hard enough, wish a recession into existence.
-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary
Thursday, August 22, 2019
Author, Speaker, Instructor, Radio Host
Shootings scare people. Guns scare people. I get it. It's like racism. If you don't know much about something, it tends to scare you. The liberal left progressive socialist Democrats, or at least a large segment of them, don't know enough about guns to understand the folly of their gun control position. The rest of them do understand guns, and the thought of a populace able to defend itself against their planned tyranny scares them.
Recent shootings have the Democrats up in arms ... well, not arms, per se, but they are pretty upset. The problem is, so are the Republicans.
Most of your left-wing voters truly believe that more gun control laws would somehow stop the violence. It amazes me that they are convinced that penalizing legal gun owners would make an impact. First of all, it would be like taking away everyone's driver's licenses and vehicles because of drunk drivers. Alcoholics will still get drunk, and find a new way to cause problems. Second, while they respond with a "that'll never happen here in America" sound bite, the reality is that when a populace is unarmed, the odds of the government becoming tyrannical shoots through the roof. Every brutal dictatorship in the last one hundred years disarmed the public before they changed from being an administration of the people to a ruthless murderous authoritarian oligarchy bent on killing millions who they believed may stand in the way of their power.
The Founding Fathers recognized the same trends in their own study of history. In fact, they knew first hand. Think about it. The British Empire kept becoming more and more difficult to deal with, laying down tyrannical laws and taxes to the point that the colonists, who had been simply protesting and voicing their dissatisfaction, up to that point, were finally willing to stand firm with their firearms over their shoulders. So, knowing that the way to stiffen their control over the American Colonists was to take away their ability to fight back, the British targeted their guns, marching towards Concord where the largest armory in the colonies existed. At that point, the Americans did not petition the king to be nice and not take their guns, and they didn't simply protest, anymore. The Americans took up arms and met the British troops at Lexington, where, in order to stop the increase of tyranny, they shot at the British Troops.
One wonders, in our current political landscape, if the founders in our shoes would be shooting by now.
Knowing what they knew after dealing with the British, and studying history, when working on the U.S. Constitution during the convention in 1787, and the subsequent debates regarding the Bill of Rights, they designed the federal government (if We the People made sure we followed the Constitution) to not be a tyranny (or a socialist system), and for the people to have in their control mechanisms to stop tyranny should power hungry big government politicians infiltrate our federal government. First, through legislators in the House of Representatives the people were given the power of the purse-strings, which means that if they don't like what is going on, through their representation they can starve the tyrants of money. Second, the federal government was not authorized to interfere with the tools the people need to stave off tyranny, such as the freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances (First Amendment). Third, should all of that fail, the right to keep and bear arms (the Second Amendment), which they saw as being "necessary to the security of a free state", was made a part of the Bill of Rights. While an armed conflict was expected to be the last resort, the whole purpose of arming the public is to enable the citizens to "alter or abolish" their government should it become tyrannical.
The purpose of the Bill of Rights was not to tell the federal government to protect or guarantee our rights, but to tell it "hands off" our rights. That's the reason for all of the "negative" language (Obama called the Constitution, in reference to the negative language in the Bill of Rights, a document of "negative liberties" ... going on to complain that he didn't like the Constitution because it tells the government "what it can't do, rather than what it should do").
The reason for all of the "Congress shall make no law," "shall not be infringed," and "shall not be violated" language in the Bill of Rights is because when it comes to domestic issues, for the most part, the federal government should do nothing at all.
Our rights are none of its business.
Which brings us back to the Republicans seeking red flag laws after the recent shootings.
If the Republican Party is supposed to be, out of the two parties, the political party closest to following the U.S. Constitution, why would they consider such an unconstitutional action?
Could it be that they don't understand the Constitution? Do they feel so pressured by the liberal left that they are willing to stomp on the Constitution in order to appease their left-wing critics? Could it be that the Grand Ol' Party has been infiltrated by liberal left progressive socialist commie bastards? Or ... could it be all of the above?
That is why we need to be putting the First Amendment (Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances) into practice right now. In other words, pray about it, talk about it, write in our blogs and to our newspapers and Congress critters about it, gather with like minded people about it in meetings and rallies, and be activists about it. Otherwise, the shootings may truly only be the beginning.
-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary
Wednesday, August 21, 2019
Wednesday Nights, 6:00 pm
28120 Jefferson Ave.
Constitution Class Handout
Instructor: Douglas V. Gibbs
The United States Constitution was written to establish a federal government for the United States of America. Article III establishes the federal court system. Article I, Section 8 gives the Congress the power to “constitute tribunals inferior to the supreme Court.” Given the power to establish these courts, Congress also has the authority to do away with any of these inferior courts. This power of Congress is repeated in Article III, Section 1 during the first sentence.
When reading Article III, one must keep in mind the fact that the article was specifically written to affect the federal court system, not the state courts. The authorities contained within this article, and the restrictions thereof, are to be applied to the federal courts, not the state courts. One must also bear in mind, as one reads this article, the additional limits placed on the federal courts by the 11th Amendment. No case against a state by citizens of another state, or by the citizens or subjects of a foreign state, shall be heard by a federal court.
In other words if citizens of a State sues a State, or foreign government sues a State, the case can’t go to the federal courts. The highest that case can go is the State Supreme Court. These limitations placed upon the court system by the 11th Amendment were proposed by the people (House of Representatives) and the States (Senate), and finally ratified by the States, in order to better control a federal court system that was attempting to compromise State Sovereignty. Judges, the lesson of the 11th Amendment shows us, are not the wielders of the rule of law. They are not the powerful men of honor when it comes to the law. The guardians of the rule of law are the people, and the States. The courts had proven that they can become an enemy of the law, proclaiming that their rulings are the rule of law, but as the 11th Amendment reminds us, the judges are merely men, and their system is the rule of man attempting to manipulate the law through their rulings. For their bad behavior, the people and the States judged them, and further limited them with a new constitutional amendment.
The conventional understanding of the terms of federal judges is that they receive lifetime appointments because no time restriction is placed upon them in the Constitution. The only limitation on term placed upon the judges can be found in Article III, Section 1 where the Constitution states that judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, “shall hold their offices during good behavior.” Conventional wisdom dictates that bad behavior is defined as unlawful activities.
The definition of bad behavior is not limited to only illegal activities. Judges take an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the United States Constitution, which is the Law of the Land. Bad behavior, then, from the point of view of the Founding Fathers, may also include unconstitutional actions, or failure to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.
Impeachment by Congress may be used if a judge acts in bad behavior. If a judge refuses to attend the hearing at the behest of the United States Senate, the federal marshall may be used to retrieve the judge, and compel them to stand before Congress to answer for their bad behavior. Congress is the check and balance against the courts, not the other way around.
The powers of the federal courts “shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority.”
The federal courts, in other words, may hear all cases that fall within their authority. These cases are regarding those in which the federal government has authority, be it by laws passed within the authorities granted to the federal government by the Constitution, or regarding issues related to treaties made that have been signed by the President and ratified by the U.S. Senate. The courts may not hear cases that are regarding issues not within the authorities of the federal government.
A recent example would be the flurry of federal court rulings against State laws defining marriage as between a man and a woman. In California, the State’s attempt to protect the government definition of marriage was with Proposition 8. The proposition changed the State Constitution to read that marriage is between a man and a woman. Marriage is not an issue that falls under the authorities of the federal government as expressly granted by the Constitution, nor is the issue of marriage prohibited to the States. Therefore, as per the authorities granted, and not granted, in line with the 10th Amendment, the government authority over marriage is reserved to the States. Since the issue of marriage is a State issue, the case should not have gone beyond the State Supreme Court. The federal courts hearing the case regarding Proposition 8, or any of the State laws regarding marriage, are acting unconstitutionally. The governors of these States, whose marriage laws were overturned by an activist federal court system, have the right to disregard all rulings by the federal courts on this issue. The action of ignoring the rulings is a type of nullification, and States have the right to nullify unconstitutional laws or actions by the federal government..
Other limitations have been placed upon the federal courts as well. The 11th Amendment changed the intent of Article III. As limited as the courts were supposed to be, the Founding Fathers realized the courts weren't limited enough, and as a result, the 11th Amendment wound up being ratified in 1795. The 11th Amendment was encouraged by a federal case called Chisolm v. Georgia (1793).
Chisolm v. Georgia (1793)
An increasing problem with federal intrusion on the States via the federal court system culminated in the case of Chisholm v. Georgia in 1793, which eventually led to the proposal, and ratification, of the 11th Amendment. A citizen of South Carolina sued the State of Georgia for the value of clothing supplied by a merchant during the Revolutionary War. After Georgia refused to appear, claiming immunity as a sovereign state, as per the Constitution (Article III, Section 2) the federal courts took the case. The judges in the court system tended to embrace a nationalist view of the federal government, and their nationalist point of view encouraged the judges to deem that in the Chisolm v. Georgia case, Georgia was not a sovereign state, therefore the Supreme Court entered a default judgment against Georgia. What ensued was a conflict between federal jurisdiction and state sovereignty that reminded the anti-federalists of their fears of a centralized federal government consolidating the states, and destroying their right to individual sovereignty.
Realizing that the clause in Article III gave the federal courts too much power over state sovereignty, Congress immediately proposed the 11th Amendment in order to take away federal court jurisdiction in suits commenced against a State by citizens of another State or of a foreign state. This is the first instance in which a Supreme Court decision was superseded by a constitutional amendment, and evidence that the founders saw the legislative branch, and the States, as being a more powerful part of government over the federal judiciary.
The 10th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America states that the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, or prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. The federal courts are included in that, as being a part of the United States federal government. As a result of the nature of how federal authorities are granted, the federal court system can only hear cases that fall within the constitutional authorities for the federal government.
When one understands the importance of protecting state sovereignty, and that the courts are supposed to be very limited in their scope and power, Article III becomes much simpler to understand.
As stated earlier in this section, the first sentence of Article III, Section 2, reads: The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States (which are only supposed to be passed if they are within the authorities granted by the Constitution), and Treaties made . . .
Notice the phrase, "arising under this Constitution." If the case is not involving the federal government as one of the parties, or is not regarding an issue that falls under the authorities of the U.S. Constitution, the federal courts can simply not take the case. The State Supreme Court, in those cases, is the highest court the case can go to.
Federal judges maintain that the federal courts have the power of judicial review, or the power to determine the constitutionality of laws. In response to the judicial urgings for the powers to judge the extent of the federal government's powers, in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions of 1798, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison warned us that giving the federal government through its courts the power of judicial review would be a power that would continue to grow, regardless of elections, putting at risk the all important concept of the separation of powers, and other much-touted limits on power. The final arbiters of the Constitution are not the courts, argued the Founding Fathers who supported the foundation of limiting principles of the U.S. Constitution. The power of the federal government must be checked by State governments, and the people. The States and the People are the enforcers and protectors of the U.S. Constitution.
In today’s society it is commonly accepted that one of the roles of the federal court system is to interpret the Constitution, and issue rulings determining the constitutionality of laws. The Constitution does not grant this authority. The power of Judicial Review was given to the courts by themselves.
The first attempt to establish “Judicial Review” as an authority to the federal court system was through the Judiciary act of 1789, but the authority allowing the United States federal courts to hear a civil case because the plaintiff has alleged a violation of the United States Constitution, federal law, or a treaty to which the United States is a party, was limited to only the United States Supreme Court. The lower federal courts, at this point, were not allowed hear cases questioning the federal government’s “federal question jurisdiction.” Anti-federalists, and Jefferson Republicans immediately railed against the legislation, arguing that legislation cannot determine authorities granted.
The Federalists, in an attempt to allow the lower courts to wield the power of judicial review, briefly created such jurisdiction in the Judiciary Act of 1801, but it was repealed the following year. Unable to establish the federal court system as the final arbiters of the United States Constitution through legislative means, the Federalists turned to the courts themselves to drive into place the controversial authority.
During John Adams' final moments in the presidency, he appointed a whole host of "midnight judges" (appointing 16 Federalist circuit judges and 42 Federalist justices of the peace to offices created by the Judiciary Act of 1801) in the hopes of retaining federalist control of the courts as Jefferson's Democratic-Republicans gained control of the Congress, and Jefferson himself accepted the presidency.
Thomas Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans were appalled by the appointment of the Midnight Judges, recognizing the stacking of the courts as a desperate attempt by the Federalists to try and continue Federalist influence despite their election loss. In Jefferson's view, the Federalists "retired into the judiciary as a stronghold . . . and from that battery all the works of Republicanism are to be beaten down and destroyed."
While Adams was still in office, most of the commissions for these newly appointed judges were delivered. However, unable to deliver all of them before Adams' term expired, some of them were left to be delivered by the incoming Secretary of State, James Madison. Jefferson ordered them not to be delivered, and without the commissions delivered, the remaining new appointees were unable to assume the offices and duties to which they had been appointed to by Adams. In Jefferson's opinion, the undelivered commissions were void.
One of those appointed judges was a man named William Marbury. He sued, and the case worked its way up to the Supreme Court. After all of the dust settled, on February 24, 1803, the Court rendered a unanimous (4-0) decision that Marbury had the right to his commission, but the court did not have the power to force Madison to deliver the commission. Chief Justice Marshall wrote the opinion of the court, and in that opinion he wrote that the federal court system has the power of judicial review. Rather than simply applying the law to the cases, Marshall decided, based on case law and precedent, that the courts have the authority to determine the validity of the law as well. This opinion, however, went against all of the limitations placed on the courts by the Constitution.
One of the most obvious fundamental principles of the Constitution is the limitations it places on the federal government. The Constitution is designed not to tell the federal government what it can't do, but to offer enumerated powers to which the authorities of the federal government are limited to. The powers are granted by the States, and any additional authorities must also be approved by the States through the ratification of any proposed amendments. It takes 3/4 of the States to ratify an amendment. The congressional proposal of an amendment, with the ratification of that amendment, in the simplest terms, is the federal government asking the States for permission to a particular authority.
The power of Judicial Review, or the authority to determine if laws are constitutional, was not granted to the courts by the States in the Constitution. The courts took that power upon themselves through Justice Marshall's opinion of Marbury v. Madison.
The federal courts are a part of the federal government. The Constitution was designed to limit the authorities of the federal government by granting only a limited number of powers. Judicial Review enables the federal government, through the courts, to determine if the laws that the federal government made are constitutional. In other words, the federal government, through Judicial Review, can determine for itself what its own authorities are.
The idea that the federal court system has the authority to interpret the Constitution, and can decide if a law is constitutional or not, is unconstitutional, and is simply an attempt by those that believe in big government to gain power, and work towards a more centralized big federal governmental system.
In Article III, Section 2, Clause 2 the Constitution reads: "In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction."
What this means is that in all of those above listed cases, the federal appellate courts cannot take the case. Such cases must bypass the federal appellate system, and go straight to the Supreme Court. Since one of those stipulations is in regards to cases "in which a State shall be a Party," that means that the case "U.S. v. Arizona" where the federal government sued Arizona to block the State's immigration law, was unconstitutional. It was unconstitutional for the inferior federal courts to hear the case. The Supreme Court had original jurisdiction. Therefore, when the district court ruled in July of 2010 on the case, and struck down parts of the Arizona immigration law, not only did that court not have jurisdiction to hear the case in the first place, but the very act of striking down portions of the law was unconstitutional. After all, Article I, Section 1 grants the legislative branch all legislative powers, and those powers would include the ability to strike down law. The courts were not vested with any legislative powers, and therefore cannot strike down laws, or portions of laws.
Trial by Jury
Article III, Section II, Clause 3 sets up the right to a trial by jury, except in the cases of impeachment.
This clause also requires that a trial must be held in the state where the crime was committed. If the crime was not committed in any particular state, then the trial is held in such a place as set forth by the Congress.
Article III, Section 3 defines treason, as well as the granting of the power by the Congress to declare the punishment. When the Constitution says that "no attainder of treason shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture except during the life of the person attained," it means that the punishment cannot be inherited or passed down (corruption of blood), nor shall the person be denied due process (attainder).
Corruption of blood also means that all inheritable qualities are destroyed, and the Founding Fathers did not believe this English practice should be an American one.
No forfeiture meant that despite treason, the properties of the person could not be forfeited to the government. The property would remain as property of the individual, or remain with family. Even when it came to the despicable act of treason, the founders believed that the individual should be able to retain certain rights.
Corruption of Blood: Punishment inherited or passed down, all inheritable qualities are destroyed.
Judicial Review: The unconstitutional authority of the federal courts to review law, interpret the Constitution regarding laws, and then determine the constitutionality of laws.
Original Jurisdiction: In the Constitution the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction on some cases, which means the case must proceed directly to the Supreme Court, and the high court must make a determination on whether or not to accept the case.
Treason: Levying war against the States, or adhering to the enemies of the States, giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
Questions for Discussion:
1. How would life in the United States be different if there was no federal court system?
2. Why did the Founding Fathers limit the authorities of the federal courts?
3. How has Judicial Review changed our system of government?
4. Why do you think the Supreme Court has Original Jurisdiction over some cases?
5. In what ways is the presence of a Judicial Branch important?
Draft of the Kentucky Resolutions (Jefferson’s Draft), Avalon Project, Yale University: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/jeffken.asp
Madison’s Notes Constitutional Convention, Avalon Project, Yale University: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/subject_menus/debcont.asp
Virginia Resolution - Alien and Sedition Acts, Avalon Project, Yale University:
Copyright: Douglas V. Gibbs, 2015
Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Corona Constitution Class
Tuesdays, 6:00 pm
522 Railroad Street
Constitution Class Handout
Instructor: Douglas V. Gibbs
Establishing the Legislative Branch
Article I, Section 1: All Legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.
Article I establishes the Legislative Branch of the federal government. Article I, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution establishes the two parts of Congress, and grants all legislative powers to the two Houses of the Congress of the United States. When studying the language used in Article I, Section 1, the original intent by the Founding Fathers becomes clear.
The first word in the first section of Article I is the word "all." The definition of all is "the whole of a particular thing."
The next words in Article I, Section 1 are legislative powers. Legislative powers are the ability to make law, modify law, repeal law, and anything else that has to do with affecting law.
The next word in the clause is "herein." The primary definition of herein is "here in this document."
After herein is the word granted. Granted is defined as "to give," "to allow," or more specifically "to legally transfer." If powers are granted, then there must be a "grantor," as well as a grantee. As we learned in our discussion regarding The Preamble, the "grantor" of the authorities enumerated in the Constitution is the States.
"Shall be" is definitive. The Constitution in its first clause reads, "All legislative powers herein granted shall be. . .," shall be meaning "it is," or "it will be."
"Vested" is much like "granted." Vested is a legal transfer of something, or in this case, an allowance to have legislative powers at the federal level granted to Congress.
The Congress of the United States is the legislative branch of the federal government, and this clause indicates that not only will the Congress be granted all legislative powers given to the federal government, but that the branch of government consists of two houses; a Senate and House of Representatives.
All legislative powers, according to this clause, are granted to the Congress by the States for the purpose of making law, modifying law, or repealing law. The powers are herein granted, which means that the laws must fall within the authorities granted by the text of the U.S. Constitution. In other words, laws made must remain consistent with the "powers herein granted."
Based on language used in the first clause of the United States Constitution, when members of the judiciary legislates from the bench, or the President issues an executive order to modify a law, such action is unconstitutional. After all, "all legislative powers" were granted to the Congress, not to the judicial branch, or the executive branch.
Since all legislative powers belong to the Congress, that means any regulations by federal departments that are not in line with laws made by the Congress that are in line with the authorities granted by the Constitution are unconstitutional as well. All legislative powers belong to the Congress, therefore any "legislative actions" by regulatory agencies, which are a part of the executive branch, are not in line with the original intent of the Constitution.
Powers the federal government has were "granted" by the States. "We The People of the United States" granted those powers to the federal government through the Constitution. Therefore, if the federal government acts in a manner that is not consistent with the contract between the States and the U.S. Government, the States have the option to ignore those unconstitutional actions by the federal government. This action of ignoring unconstitutional law is the States' way of being the final arbiters of the Constitution. The term for this kind of action by a State is nullification. Thomas Jefferson, in his draft of the Kentucky Resolutions, explained that any unconstitutional law is null and void, and as an illegal law, the States have the right to nullify it.
The concept that only Congress has legislative powers, only the executive branch has executive powers, and the judicial branch only has judicial powers, as described in the first sentence of each of the first three articles of the Constitution, is called Separation of Powers. The purpose of this philosophy is to disallow different branches from abusing the powers not granted to that branch, as well as to protect against collusion.
The Separation of Powers also exists between the States, and the federal government. Most authorities granted to the federal government are powers the States did not reserve to themselves. Most authorities retained by the States are not authorized to be administered to by the federal government. There are a few authorities that are concurrent, meaning that both the federal government, and the States, have some authority over the issue. One issue that is concurrent is immigration, which will be addressed later in this book. Sole authority over a particular power is called Exclusive Powers.
House of Representatives
Article I, Section 2 establishes, and defines, the House of Representatives. The members of the House of Representatives are divided among the States proportionally. As it is today, the House of Representatives was the voice of the people in the federal government. Each Representative is chosen to serve for two years, which means every two years every Representative is up for re-election, if they choose to run.
The eligibility of a Representative as explained by Article I, Section 2 requires that the candidate must be at least twenty-five years of age, and been a citizen of the United States for at least seven years. The age is lower than for Senators. Representatives were not expected to be as politically savvy as the Senators, and tended to have less experience. The age requirement simply reflected that. Political knowledge and experience tends to come with age.
Divided allegiance was a serious concern to the Founding Fathers. The requirement that Representatives have been citizens of the United States for at least seven years reflects that concern. Seven years, for a Representative of the people, was assumed to have been long enough for the Representative to have thrown off any allegiances to other nations.
The third clause of Article I, Section 2, includes the 3/5s clause, which was changed by the 14th Amendment following the American Civil War.
The Southern States used slaves for their agricultural economies. The southern states were needed to ratify the new constitution. As a condition for ratifying the Constitution, the southern states demanded that the slaves be counted as one whole person each. The idea was that if the slaves were counted as whole persons, the apportionment would tip the scales in their favor through increased representation in the new United States House of Representatives. White populations in the southern states were lower in number when compared to the northern states, due to the rural nature of the Slave States to the south.
The Northern States, under the heavy influence of merchants, political elitists, and a group of abolitionists, wanted the slaves counted as "zero" in order to reduce the number of representatives the southern states would receive, which would give the majority to the northern states, thus giving the north more legislative power. With this additional voting power in the House of Representatives, the northern states sought to have greater influence on the federal government through legislation. The plan was to use their legislative power to tyrannically force the southern states into submission, and to eventually abandon slavery.
In the interest of compromise, to convince the southern states to ratify the constitution, while giving the northern states the satisfaction that the southern states did not get exactly what they wanted, the decision was made that slaves would be counted as 3/5 of a whole person for the sake of apportionment. In other words, it was not a declaration that they believed blacks to be less than a person, but simply to affect the census in such a way that too much power through apportionment would not be given to either The North or The South, while also ensuring that the Constitution got ratified.
G.R. Mobley, author of We the People, Whose Constitution Is It Anyway?, believes the Founding Fathers missed a great opportunity to abolish slavery. He supports the idea that the 3/5s Clause was an error in judgment by the Founders, and that the authors of the Constitution should have only allowed those States that rejected slavery to be members of the union under the Constitution. By failing to ratify the Constitution the southern slave states would then have been on their own as a separate union. Pressure from the Spanish in Florida, and the threat of invasion by Spanish forces, would have then encouraged the slave states to abolish slavery, so that they may rejoin the union, and enjoy the strength of the union of all thirteen States.
Historically, it is impossible to know if that is exactly how it would have played out. Regardless of the opportunity, the Founders largely believed they had to compromise to ensure every State remained a member of the union, and ensure that they would receive the required nine ratifications of States in order to put the new federal government into motion.
Article I, Section 2, Clause 3, in addition to containing the 3/5s Clause, also establishes the census. The census is a required a head count to be taken once every ten years in order to determine the enumeration for establishing the number of Representatives each State shall receive. The clause also indicates that the number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand. This means there cannot be more than one Representative for a district of thirty thousand. However, it does not indicate there must be one Representative per thirty thousand. If that was the case, we would have thousands of Representatives.
Article I, Section 2, Clause 4 states that whenever vacancies happen in the House of Representatives, it is the duty of the Executive Authority to issue Writs of Election to fill such vacancies. What this means is that the Governors of the States have the duty to ensure there is a special election to fill any vacancies that may happen in the House of Representatives.
The House of Representatives chooses for itself its own Speaker of the House, and other officers.
According to Article I, Section 2, Clause 5, the House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment. To impeach is to charge with misconduct. The formal process of impeachment may lead to removal of an official accused of unlawful activity or other offenses deemed to be impeachable offenses. Impeachment is not defined as removal from office, though removal from office is often the result of impeachment proceedings. In history, two presidents have been impeached, but neither were removed from office. The presidents who faced impeachment were Andrew Johnson (serving as President of the United States from 1865 to 1869), and William Jefferson Clinton (1993-2001). President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before impeachment proceedings began.
The United States Senate
Article I, Section 3 established, and defines, the United States Senate. The representation of the States in the U.S. Senate is equal, two per State. The Senators serve for six years, which means every two years an election is held for one-third of the Senate seats. The required minimum age of a Senator is thirty years, five years older than that of a Representative. The increased age requirement for Senators reveals the importance of longer life and political experience, as considered by the Founding Fathers. Allegiance to the United States also remained important to the framers in the U.S. Senate, requiring that Senators need to be nine years a citizen of the United States, rather than the seven years as required of Representatives.
Article I, Section 3 originally required that Senators were chosen by the legislatures of the States, rather than voted into office directly by the voters. The appointment of Senators by their State legislatures changed to the vote of the people in 1913 with the ratification of the 17th Amendment. By the State legislatures appointing the Senators, it made the Senate the voice of the States, while the House of Representatives was the voice of the people. By the Houses of Congress being different, it created a natural check and balance, which did not allow the representation of the people to accomplish anything without approval of the voice of the States, and vice versa.
Article I, Section 3, Clause 4 establishes the Vice President as the President of the Senate. The Vice President, though a member of the executive branch, is also connected to the legislative branch. The Vice President may preside over the sessions of the U.S. Senate, and even participate in the debates, but in the end, the Vice President has no vote in the U.S. Senate, except as the tie-breaking vote.
During the early days of our nation the Vice President attended a large number of sessions of the Senate. He served as the voice of the executive branch in the Senate, ensuring the States' representation in Congress had the opportunity to be exposed to the executive branch's opinions regarding the issues that concerned the States, and the union as a whole.
As with the House of Representatives, the Senate chooses its own officers. One of those officers is the President pro tempore, which is the President of the Senate when the Vice President is not present.
The House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment. Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 gives the U.S. Senate the authority to try all impeachments. No conviction can be reached unless two-thirds of the U.S. Senate membership is present. Impeachment cannot extend further than the removal of the impeached from office, and the disqualification to hold any office in the future. However, a legal case can still be brought against the convicted from other sources, according to the law. Since the U.S. Senators were originally appointed by the legislatures of the individual States, this means that impeachment charges could be brought by the people (House of Representatives), but it took the States (Senate) to hear the case, and make the final determination after all evidence was provided. During impeachment hearings, the Chief Justice presides over the hearing, as provided by Article I, Section 3.
The 17th Amendment changed the dynamics of our governmental system. Note that many functions by the executive branch are subject to the advise and consent of the Senate. The Senate ratifies treaties, holds hearings for any appointments the executive branch nominates, and the Senate holds the sole power for holding hearings on impeachments. This is because actions by the federal government are subject to approval by the States. The States granted the federal government its powers in the first place.
The House of Representatives, as the voice of the people, and the Senate, as the voice of the States, and the natural check and balance that is the result of that relationship between those two Houses of Congress, also enables both Houses together to be a valuable check against the executive branch. One of the emanations of that correlation is the ability of Congress to override a veto with a 2/3 vote. The authority to override vetoes was established to enable the People, and the States, when they are in full agreement regarding a proposed bill, to be able to ensure a law is put into place, and to constrain the executive together through the power of combined vote.
Elections and Assembly of Congress
Article I, Section 4 begins, "The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof." This clause establishes that each State may have its own methods for electing members of the Congress. The same applies, as determined in Article II, to presidential elections. If there is a discrepancy, or a question regarding the acceptance of ballots, it is not the job of the courts to make final determination. Article I, Section 4 gives that authority to the State legislatures.
The same clause adds, after giving the State legislatures authority over federal elections, that "Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators."
Congress, as discussed earlier, is bicameral. The two Houses of Congress are the House of Representatives, and the United States Senate. The House of Representatives, at the time of the writing of the Constitution, was designed to be as it is now, the voice of the people. Representatives have always been elected by a direct vote. The United States Senate was the voice of the States, appointed by the State legislatures. The appointment of the Senators by representatives of the people is an example of an indirect vote.
As the representation of the people, and the States, Congress was not seen as the greatest potential danger in the federal government. Congress was the voice of the people and the States in the federal government; the eyes of the parents to ensure the central government did not grow beyond the authorities granted to it. With Congress representing the oversight by the people, and the States, the oversight powers given to the federal legislature often led to other authorities that allowed Congress to act as a check and balance against potentially dangerous government activity. Giving Congress oversight authorities was a way to ensure that Congress participated in the concept of a government "by the consent of the governed."
Though elections were established with the State legislatures prescribing the times, places and manner of holding elections, as a check and balance against that authority, Congress may pass laws to "make or alter such regulations."
At the end of the clause giving Congress the authority to act as an oversight regarding the manner in which elections are held, a qualifier is present, expressing, "except as to the Places of chusing Senators."
A majority of delegates at the Federal Convention in 1787, by the conclusion of the assembly, were strong supporters of the sovereignty of the States, and the parental nature of the States in relation to the newly formed federal government, and the duty of the States as the final arbiters of the United States Constitution to ensure the new government functioned within the limitations granted to it. A part of that function by the States included the very important fact that the States had a voice in Congress with appointed U.S. Senators. The framers did not want that authority to be tinkered with, so they remind future generations at the end of this clause that though Congress has lawmaking authorities, and oversight authorities, manipulating the dynamics of government where the people, and the States, have a voice in the United States Congress is something not to be fiddled with. A similar advisement also appears at the end of Article V., "and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate."
Oversight powers by the States were seen by the framers as being a right of the States, and as with natural rights of the people, a right is not something that should be able to be taken, but if the holder of the right wishes to give it away, no law can prevent such a foolish action.
The second paragraph of Article I, Section 4 reads, "The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year." The first thought regarding this clause by the typical reader may be, "Of course. How can they get anything done if Congress isn't assembling?"
Another question may be, "Why did the framers feel it to be necessary to insert this clause into the Constitution?"
During the convention in 1787, there were some who felt this clause was "overburdensome." Government was not supposed to dominate their everyday lives. The members of Congress were not professional politicians, nor did they care to be. They had businesses to run, and lives to live. Surely, the attitude of many of the Founding Fathers was, there is not enough business to compel Congress to meet every single year!
Those who supported the concept of an annual meeting reminded the others that Congress was the check the people and the States had available to them in the federal government. It was the duty of Congress to serve as a check against the President, and the federal judiciary. To be an effective check, Congress must meet at least once per year. The clause, it was argued, was for the benefit of the people.
In present day politics, the opposite seems to be the norm. Government is viewed as being broken if they do not act on an endless and constant flow of issues, committees, and crises. Politicians view their position as their job, rather than a service they are providing.
Originally, the required meeting day was the first Monday in December. That was later changed to noon on the third day of January by the 20th Amendment.
Article I, Section 5 requires Congress to have a minimum number of members present in order to do business. That majority constitutes a quorum, and if the Congress deems it necessary, the present members may set fines for members who do not show up. The Houses of Congress may remain in session, during which no formal business is conducted because the House does not have a quorum, so as to prevent executive actions that may be carried out during recess. This kind of session is called a pro forma session.
In Article II, Section 2, the President is given the authority to make recess appointments, when Congress is not in session. Normally, the United States Senate has advise and consent authority over appointments, which means that appointments of personnel to fill vacancies are possible for the President to grant, but such appointments requires the approval of the United States Senate (voice of the States). If the Senate is not in session, and an appointment is necessary, the President may make appointments, but the terms of those appointments only last to the end of the Senate's next session. If the Senate is in a pro-forma session, the President may not make any appointments. With Congress only in session when there is work to be done, and the Founders believing that would likely only be once a year, the ability of the President to make appointments when Congress is not in session was a valuable, and necessary, tool. In today's political environment, it seems like Congress is always in session, so recess appointments are not as common.
In early January of 2012, President Barack Obama used a recess appointment to name Richard Cordray the new Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The CFPB is a powerful bureaucracy created by the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial overhaul legislation. However, even though most of the members of Congress were on vacation, the United States Senate was still in session. President Obama's definition of recess, it turned out, was broader than the Constitution's definition. In reality, the U.S. Senate was in pro-forma session. John Berlau, Director of CEI's Center for Investors and Entrepreneurs, called the nomination of former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray "very troubling," criticizing both Obama's controversial use of a recess appointment, and the selection of Cordray itself. Berlau later asked, "What's next, appointing nominees when the Senate takes a bathroom break?"
Article I, Section 5 also allows each House of Congress to determine its own rules, keep a journal to record proceedings and votes, and that neither house may adjourn without the permission of the other. Section 5 also establishes that if a member of a house does not follow the established rules, the house may punish its members for disorderly behavior, and by a two thirds vote may actually expel a member from Congress.
The establishment of rules, holding a hearing in regards to the breaking of those rules, and punishing a member for his behavior, as set forth by Article I, Section 5, was used when Charles Rangel broke the rules of the House of Representatives. He faced a panel for his actions, and was punished by censure in December of 2010. He later sued, spending about a third of his 2014 campaign cash on legal bills in a failed bid to overturn his fall from congressional grace. On December 11, 2013, a federal judge in Washington dismissed the lawsuit, filed by Rangel in the previous April, to get the censure overturned.
The mandate to keep a journal to record proceedings and votes was included in this section because the Founders wanted government to be transparent, accessible, and accountable to the people. Deals behind closed doors were not supposed to be a part of our political system.
Congressional Compensation, Privileges, Restrictions
When President George Washington took office, he refused to accept the constitutionally allowed compensation for holding the office. He viewed his office as being a privilege, and an opportunity to once again serve the country he loved. During the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin considered proposing that elected government officials not be paid for their service. By the end of the debate, it was decided that government representatives should receive fixed stipends by which they may be compensated for the devotion of their time to public service. It was also determined, however, that the compensation should not be so high that it would become the motive for seeking office.
Article I, Section 6 of the Constitution addresses 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.
Protection from arrest while traveling to and from Congress was not only a privilege based on those enjoyed by their counterparts in the British Parliament, but also a protection from political enemies who may wish to keep certain members of Congress from voting.
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.
To explain this clause, let's visit a recent violation of it during the Obama administration.
After Barack Obama won the 2008 Presidential Election, he announced that Hillary Clinton would be his new Secretary of State. The position of Secretary of State received a pay raise while Hillary Clinton was a member of the United States Senate. Article I, Section 6 states that "No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall be been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time." Since Clinton was a Senator at the time the position of Secretary of State was given a raise, technically she was not eligible for the position to which she was appointed. To resolve this problem, and still allow Mrs. Clinton to accept the position, the Democrats applied the Saxbe Fix, meaning they undid the raise, and Hillary Clinton received the compensation that was in place before the vote she participated in while in the Senate. The Saxbe Fix, or a Salary rollback, is an unconstitutional action. The clause in the Constitution is clear: "No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time."
The Saxbe Fix, or the rollback of the salary, does not change the fact that the emoluments increased during the time Hillary Clinton was in the U.S. Senate.
As a tool, the Saxbe fix was nothing new. The salary rollback in the case of a violation of Article I, Section 6, a mechanism by which the President of the United States can avoid restrictions by the United States Constitution which prohibits the President from appointing a current or former member of Congress to a position that was created, or to an office position for which the pay and/or benefits were increased, during the term for which that member was elected until the term has expired, was first used in 1909. The "Saxbe" name was applied to the political maneuver later in history. The Saxbe Fix is named for William Saxbe, a Senator appointed Attorney General by President Richard Nixon in 1973.
Adjourn: Suspend proceedings to a later time and/or place.
Censure: Procedure for publicly reprimanding a public official for inappropriate behavior. There are normally no legal consequences. Censure is not mentioned in the Constitution, but is a procedure devised by the legislature as a tool for formal condemnation of a member of the congressional body.
Congress of the United States: The legislative branch of the federal government which consists of two houses; a Senate and House of Representatives. The Congress is the only part of the federal government granted the authority of legislative powers.
Granted: To confer, give, or bestow. A gift of legal rights or privileges, or a recognition of asserted rights, as in treaty. To legally transfer.
Impeachment: To charge with misconduct. Formal process that may lead to removal of an official accused of unlawful activity; impeachment does not mean the removal from office, though removal from office is often the result of impeachment proceedings.
Legislative Powers: The ability to make law, modify law, repeal law, and anything else that has to do with affecting law.
Nullification: State power to ignore unconstitutional federal law.
President pro tempore: Second highest ranking official of the United States Senate. Vice President is President of the Senate and the highest-ranking official of the Senate despite not being a member of the body. During the Vice President's absence, the president pro tempore presides over its sessions or appoints another senator to do so. The president pro tempore is elected by the Senate and is customarily the most senior senator in the majority party.
Pro Forma Session: A session in either house of the United States Congress at which no formal business is expected to be conducted, so as to fulfill the obligation "that neither chamber can adjourn for more than three days without the consent of the other." Pro forma sessions are also used to prevent the President from pocket-vetoing bills, calling the Congress into a special session, and to prevent the President from making recess appointments.
Quorum: Minimum number of members of an assembly necessary to conduct the business of that group.
Saxby Fix: Salary rollback. A mechanism by which the President of the United States can avoid restrictions by the United States Constitution which prohibits the President from appointing a current or former member of Congress to a position that was created, or to an office position for which the pay and/or benefits were increased, during the term for which that member was elected until the term has expired. First used in 1909, the Saxbe Fix is named for William Saxbe, a Senator appointed to Attorney General by Nixon in 1973.
Questions for Discussion:
1. If only Congress can make law, then why do some politicians believe that Executive Orders can modify law, or that regulatory agencies can create new regulations to enforce laws that were never passed by Congress?
2. The word "granted" reminds us that all powers once belonged to the States, and some of those authorities were "granted" to the federal government for the purpose of carrying out the tasks necessary for the protection, preservation, and promotion of the union. If the federal government was created by the States, then how can statists justify their belief that all federal laws trump all State laws?
3. Why do you think the Congress has two legislative houses?
4. Why do you think representatives are only elected for two years?
5. Why is it significant that only the House can originate bills for raising revenue?
6. Why is the power of impeachment belonging to the House so important?
7. As President of the Senate, what kind of role should the Vice President play in the day to day activities of the United States Senate?
8. Why do you think the House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment, but the Senate has the task of hearing the case?
9. How are the dynamics of our governmental system different in relation to how the Senators are appointed, or voted for?
10. How was the Senate expected to check the House of Representatives, and work together with the House to check the Executive and Judiciary?
11. Why do you think the authority for prescribing the times, places, and manner of holding elections was given to the State Legislatures?
12. Why was Congress given the allowance to pass laws that may make or alter such regulations?
13. Why was the federal government prohibited from influencing the places for choosing Senators?
14. To conduct business, the houses of Congress need a quorum. If they do not have a majority, they may remain in session through a rule established by Congress called pro forma. What advantages does pro forma give the houses of Congress when it comes as serving as a check against the executive branch?
15. Why do you think neither house can adjourn without the permission of the other?
16. The houses of Congress establish their own rules of procedure. If a member breaks any of these rules, Congress also has the authority to punish the rule breaker. One type of punishment is called censure. How is censure an adequate punishment?
17. How has the concept of transparency changed over the last two hundred years?
Edwin Mora, "Top Democrat Dodges Question on Constitutionality of Obama Appointments, Says Pro Forma Sessions Are 'Games Being Played'," CNSnews.com (January 6, 2012): http://cnsnews.com/news/article/top-democrat-dodges-question-constitutionality-obama-appointments-says-pro-forma
Free Dictionary by Farlex; http://legal-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/Grant
Joseph Andrews, A Guide for Learning and Teaching The Declaration of Independence and The U.S. Constitution - Learning from the Original Texts Using Classical Learning Methods of the Founders; San Marcos: The Center for Teaching the Constitution (2010).
Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen, A Patriot's History of the United States; New York: Sentinel (2004).
Madison's Notes on the Constitutional Convention, Avalon Project, Yale University: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/subject_menus/debcont.asp
Philip B. Kurland and Ralph Lerner, The Founder's Constitution - Volume Two - Preamble through Article I, Section 8, Clause 4; Indianapolis: Liberty Fund (1987).
Saxbe, William B. I've Seen the Elephant: An Autobiography. Kent State University Press (2000).
Copyright: Douglas V. Gibbs, 2014