As a result of the comment thread on another article, I started thinking about Constitutional Amendments. As some of you who have read my other articles may know, I am a big proponent of adhering to the precepts set out in the Constitution. That most important document lays out a pretty good system of governance, particularly because (if strictly followed) it keeps too much power out of the hands of any one person or group of people. Most of the power falls to the states, and what national oversight there must be is divided amongst three equally powerful branches of government. However, hearing folks argue, as I do, that the slow and steady shift in governmental power is “within the bounds of the Constitution”, I am thinking that maybe it is time for a change.
We’ve heard plenty about Constitutional Amendments lately, in the context of trying to “save” the institution of marriage in this country. The concept of using a Constitutional Amendment for the purpose of discrimination is abhorrent to me, but I am not at all opposed to making some changes for the sake of clarifying the nature of our government. The Constitutional Convention was very concerned with creating an executive branch which would not have the power to evolve into a dictatorship. There was much debate at the time as to how to prevent that from happening. However, we now find ourselves in a situation where the executive branch has claimed for itself the power to make laws and ignore laws by using signing statements and executive orders. Our Congress, which was originally envisaged as the only branch with that power, seems disinclined to enforce oversight on a “war-time” President, having already given up its Constitutional power to declare war. The judicial branch is quiet under the weight of “national security”. And the press, specifically protected in the First Amendment due to our founder’s recognition that, even with the checks and balances put in place, the government needed a watchdog, is in increasing jeopardy of being crippled by the same.
Perhaps some clarification is in order.
An amendment preventing the issuance of executive orders would be a good start. Let Congress make the laws. The executive branch is typically given much leeway in the wording of those laws to appoint positions and carry them out. That’s it’s job, to carry out the laws. If the executive branch sees that there is an area where a law needs to be made, let it present the idea to Congress. Congress can vote on it. That’s what they do. Perhaps an amendment should be issued clarifying the scope and power of Presidential signing statements. It’s just fine and dandy if the President wants to state his opinion on a new law…but that should not carry equal weight with the 535 votes of the members of Congress.
While we’re at it, perhaps an amendment to allow the citizenry of the relevant region to impeach their Congressional representative, should they believe them to be complicit in any violation of the Constitution. Or just put in term limits for Congressmen. It’s hard for them to not worry about getting re-elected when they do controversial things like question whether or not the actions and policies of the executive branch are legal. We should take that pressure off of them.
Let’s have an Amendment which ensures that any case of sufficient weight to be brought before a Supreme Court in the land will see trial, by disallowing the executive branch to intervene…even for reasons of “national security”. They can have a closed court, the people never have to know the details of the case, should the judicial branch agree that it might be damaging to national security. But the executive branch is entirely insulated from its “checks” if it can keep any investigation which might possibly be tangent to its programs and policies from ever happening.
I agree with many who claim that the problems with our government reach farther back than the current administration. President Bush is merely making good strategic use of the policies put in place before he arrived in office. That, of course, does not mean that his vision of a massively powerful executive branch is keeping with the vision outlined in the Constitution. It has been 200 years. The slow erosion of the original concepts have so clouded our view of the original document that we resort to squabbling in the dust like chickens after the last grains of corn, looking for the tiny bits of law so that we can fight over them. Perhaps it is time we raised our heads and considered where we diverged from the original path. Perhaps we need to seriously ask ourselves what kind of government we want today.