Checks and Balances – or Making promises you can’t keep

So it looks like we’re in for the longest presidential campaign in history. Is anyone else tired yet of hearing what Candidates A – Z will do when elected President?

Do you ever wonder if any one of them has read the Constitution?  Have they read the job description?  Do they understand that the President doesn’t get to make the laws or put bills into effect?  Or do they think that the entire population over the age of 21 remembers high school American Studies (or whatever it was called)?

Relevant sections from the United States Constitution (from Wikipedia)

Article 1: Legislative Branch: the U.S. Congress makes the laws for the United States 

Article 1, Section 8, Clause 18: “The Necessary and Proper Clause”

The Congress shall have Power … To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

Article 1, Section 7, Clause 3: Presidential Veto

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

Article 2: Executive Branch: the President, Vice-President, …carry out the laws made by Congress.

Article 2, Section 3, Clause 2: “The Recommendation Clause”

The president has the power and duty to recommend, for the consideration of Congress, such measures which the president deems as “necessary and expedient”.

Kesavan and Sidak explain the purpose of the Recommendation clause:

“The Recommendation Clause empowers the President to represent the people before Congress, by recommending measures for the reform of government, for the general welfare, or for the redress of grievances.”

The President tailors his recommendations so that their natural implication is the enactment of new legislation, rather than some other action that Congress might undertake. Finally, the President shall have executive discretion to recommend measures of his choosing.”15]

(NOTE: I am going to use singular masculine because so far all Presidents have been masculine; and because trying to do both ‘s/he’ / ‘him/her’ constantly is just plain ridiculous; and because ‘it’ just sounds a bit disrespectful; – and because political correctness has been carried from sublime to ridiculous).

That said…

Part of me feels badly when the public, especially the voters who supported the winner, turns against him because ‘he lied’ – ‘he promised and didn’t deliver’.

Another – more assertive – part wants to get in the candidates’ faces and shout, “Don’t you understand that YOU CAN’T KEEP THOSE PROMISES???”

Maybe my ‘English teacher’ is showing. Would it make a difference to the voting public if, instead of “I promise to x, y, or z…” they said, “I promise to do everything in my power to x, y, or z…”?  Would the voting public understand the difference?  I suspect many would not.

So why not add a 30–second Civics lesson? “I would like to promise to create [e.g.,] a national health care system, but that wouldn’t be within my power as President.  As President, I can formulate a plan for a national healthcare system.  Then I give that plan to Congress.  This is part of the Checks and Balances system that our forefathers laid out in the Constitution.  As President, I can propose a bill. The men and women you’ve elected to represent you can pass my proposal – or they can throw it out.  Usually, they take it apart, keep some things, change or add other items, and then vote on it.  SOMETIMES, they add items that have nothing to do with the original proposal that I gave them.

But they – your Senators and Representatives – are the ones who ‘make’ the laws.  Once both the Senate and the House pass it, I sign it into law.  If they have bolloxed it up so it’s pretty much FUBAR, I can veto it.

But I CANNOT PROMISE to make a national healthcare system – or free college – or a citizenship plan for illegal residents – a law. That’s not my job.  If YOU, the citizens who vote for me because YOU WANT what I WANT, want to make sure what WE WANT becomes law, that’s where your responsibility increases.  You don’t only vote for ME, you vote for senators and representatives who want what you want.  And then you keep after them!”

If I recall correctly, Bernie Sanders touched on this. I wish he’d touch on it harder – and more often.

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