An Unequal Relationship?

Congress and the Presidency: An Unequal Relationship? “The tyranny of the legislature is really the danger most to be feared, and will continue to be so for many years to come. The tyranny of the exec

Congress and the Presidency: An Unequal Relationship?”The tyranny of the legislature is really the danger most to be feared, and will continue to be so for many years to come. The tyranny of the executive power will come in its turn, but at a more distant period.” – Thomas Jefferson

In 1783 American colonists, defying incredible odds, had just beaten the United Kingdom, western hemisphere’s preeminent power, in the American War for Independence. (NPS.gov, n.d.) Now, these thirteen colonies, saddled with a new governmental charter, the onerous Articles of Confederation, sought to chart their own, independent path. (Gilderlehrman, n.d.) As a result, in 1787 disgruntled colonists sent delegates to Philadelphia in order to revise the dysfunctional Articles of Confederation. Yet, in a radical departure, most delegates decided not to amend the current constitution, but instead to craft a new Constitution. (OConnor & Sabato, 2019)

During the four month Constitutional Convention the delegates readily agreed upon James Madison’s basic premise of a new, United States government delineated along three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. That said, most delegates envisioned a strong legislative body and a weak executive office. (Maier, 2011)

Today, many historians and political scientists argue that the institution of the presidency has dramatically increased in power since the end of WWII at the expense of Congress.

This notion of a modern, expansive presidential power, stands in steadied contrast to Congress’ Constitutional ability to “check” the executive branch.

The U.S Congress has three, broad powers that, as per the founding fathers, act as a “check” against the executive branch:

  • Lawmaking Power. Only Congress can propose and pass legislation.
    • An example of Congress’s lawmaking function is the Declaration of War with Japan of 1941. More information about Congress’s ability to declare war can be found on the official House of Representatives’ website.
  • Budgetary Power. Only Congress has the authority to pass and fund the federal budget. Whereas the president request monies for the federal bureaucracies, Congress actually controls the purse strings.
    • An example of Congress’s budgetary function is the Congressional Budget Act of 1974. More information about the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 can be found on the official House of Representatives’ website.
  • Oversight Power. As per Whitehouse.gov, “Oversight of the executive branch is an important Congressional check on the President’s power and a balance against his discretion in implementing laws and making regulations. A major way that Congress conducts oversight is through hearings. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs are both devoted to overseeing and reforming government operations, and each committee conducts oversight in its policy area.” (Whitehouse, 2019)
    • An example of Congress’ oversight function is the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution of 1964 and the resulting              War Powers Resolution of 1974. A more detailed explanation of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution can be found at the State Department’s website. A more detailed explanation of the War Powers Resolution of 1974 can be found at the National Constitution Center.

So, is there an imbalance of power between the legislative and executive branches? If so, who has the upper hand? Inquiring minds want to know!

Directions: Using the attached outline template and requirements, craft a full sentence, two page outline that analyzes the legislative and executive branches. Lumen’s Principles of Public Speaking has an excellent example of a full sentence outline. Please include the following:

  • As per the U.S. Constitution, how does the legislative branch act as a check against the executive branch?
    • Support your answer with information obtained from the text, supplemental academic research, and the U.S. Constitution.
  • As per the U.S. Constitution, how does the executive branch act as a check against the legislative branch?
    • Support your answer with information obtained from the text, supplemental academic research, and the U.S. Constitution.
  • Explain how either the executive or legislative branch wields more power at the expense of the other branch.
    • Support your answer with at least two Congressional legislation and/or executive orders.
    • Why does this example interest you?
    • Why is this example important to you?

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