Never before in American history has the Constitution been more referenced, more debated or more relevant. Over the years, Americans have become more litigious and more concerned for issues addressed by our Constitution. Civil rights violations, the concept of federalism, the enumerated powers of the federal government and privacy issues dominate the public debate on television, in private groups including political parties and by written media both printed and electronic. This article is an introduction to the United States Constitution as a statement of the initiation of our tripartite federal government. When we truly understand the powers enumerated by the Constitution and the powers that are left to each State we can better understand our power as voting Americans – our power to have our voices heard by legislators, judges, and the President even though they appear remote and unreachable.
Article 1 of the United States Constitution
The first article of the Constitution establishes Congress as the legislative branch of the federal government comprised of the House of Representative and the Senate.
House of Representatives: This is the primary means for each individual to choose representatives from their home state to support the specific interests of that state in Washington DC. Every two years each and every American citizen may vote for their representatives in the House to speak and vote on their behalf. The system works best if each citizen takes an active role in communicating with their state representatives and letting them know what they believe in and what they want from the federal government. It has become very easy to contact your representatives through electronic means or through the mail. There are generally legislative aides ready to respond to telephone calls as well. These representatives are elected by the people and have a duty to represent the interests of their constituents, so if each American expresses their interests, only then can a good representative do their job. If a representative does not respond to your questions or your comments or consistently supports or votes against your interests, then it is time to vote that representative out and elect someone who will listen to you and respond accordingly.
Senate: The Senate is comprised of two senators from each state. These elected officials also have a duty to represent the common interests of their constituents. Senators are elected every six years so it is more important to take an interest and inquire as to the voting records of their senators as well as to be aware of any agendas or ideologies carried by the senator. Six years is a long time to be represented by a senator that is not listening to the voice of the people of their own state.
Other Provisions of Article 1 of the Constitution: Article 1 also provides that representatives and senators be compensated via the United States Treasury pursuant to laws passed by Congress. The integrity of each member of congress should be carefully considered since they are self governing with respect to their compensation.
With the current financial considerations facing this country, it is important to look to section 7 of Article 1. It states that all bills for raising revenue originate with the House of Representatives but that the Senate may make amendments and must pass the approval of the Senate and the President of the United States. In like kind, section 8 allows congress to tax, to borrow money on the credit of the United States, to regulate commerce with foreign nations, to establish a Bankruptcy Court, to regulate the value of our currencies and punish counterfeiters of our American currencies, to establish Armies, a Navy, and to declare war. With all this power vested in the Congress, it is essential that each and every American citizen take note of who they are choosing to represent their interests individually and as a collective belonging to their state of residence.
Article 2 of the United States Constitution
This article addresses the powers and limitations of the executive branch of the government. That would include the President, Vice President and Cabinet. This article describes the electoral process this country utilizes in choosing a President. Again, your choices for your state representatives make a difference. Article 2 further provides that if the President can no longer carry on as our countrys leader, that the Vice President will take his place.
The President, pursuant to Section 2 of Article 2, shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States and of the Militia of the several States. The President has the power to make treaties with other nations with a 2/3 approval of the Senate as well as to appoint Ambassadors, Consuls and Supreme Court Justices with that same approval of the Senate.
A President or Vice President may be removed from office by Impeachment only if that person is convicted of Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors. Since the threshold is so high for a President to be removed from office, it has rarely been invoked in an official capacity even though it is thrown around liberally in the present day media.
Article 3 of the United States Constitution
This third Article of the Constitution establishes the United States Supreme Court and “inferior courts as the Congress may ordain and establish.” An example of a Court created by Congress under this Article is the United States Bankruptcy Court.
A Supreme Court Justice is appointed by the President and approved by the Congress for a lifetime tenure. A Justice may not be removed from the Court once appointed until that Justice dies, chooses to retire or for bad behavior. There are no elections and there are no campaigns therefore this branch of the government may be considered the least biased based on election years or lobbyist financing. However, each Justice is nominated by a President who belongs to a particular party. Again, choose your Senators wisely as they are the body that must question each Supreme Court nominee and ultimately decide their fate.
Understanding the first three articles of the Constitution of the United States is essential for every single American. All decisions made by Congress are made on behalf of each individual citizen of the United States. It is imperative that each citizen be counted and raise their voice. This is, indeed, a government created by the people and for the people.