The Framers of the United States Constitution wanted to give more power to the people and less power to the government. This was a radical new idea, and it started with the legislative branch: the House of Representatives and the Senate. John Yoo, Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, explains.
#constitution #prageru #government
SUBSCRIBE 👉 https://www.prageru.com/join
“We the People of the United States.”
These are the words that open the American Constitution. We take them for granted now, but at the time they were written they were earth-shattering. If you think that sounds like an exaggeration, consider this:
No government had ever come into existence based on a document written for the people and approved by them.
It makes perfect sense, then that the most immediate and accountable branch of the government, the legislature, would be the first item on the Constitution’s agenda.
This is Article I.
It’s divided into ten sections.
Section 1 creates a bicameral legislature; that is, a legislature made up of two separate entities: a House of Representatives and a Senate. Thus, the theme of the Constitution is immediately suggested: this is going to be a government in which power is both limited and shared.
Section 2 describes how members of the House of Representatives are to be chosen. To run for office, you must be a citizen, reside in the state you’re representing and be at least 25 years of age.
It’s easy to miss, but at the time this was another startling feature of the Constitution: almost anyone could be a candidate for Congress. The citizen politician is an American innovation.
Section 2 also describes who could vote and how many people it takes to make up a Congressional district.
This “shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons…and…three fifths of all other Persons.”
This last phrase refers, of course, to slaves. It should be noted that the word “slave” does not occur in the Constitution. The Framers kept it out for two reasons. One, they recognized it would not play well in a document that was all about freedom. Two, they believed that slavery would fade away with time.
But it did exist in the Framers here and now, so it had to be dealt with.
The Northern abolitionists—those who were for abolishing slavery—didn’t think slaves should be counted at all. Why? Because if slaves were counted, the population of the Southern slave states would be increased, and consequently the political influence of the anti-slavery North would be decreased.
Of course, the Southern states wanted their slaves counted as five-fifths, that is, as whole persons so that the population of the slave states would be greater and give the South more power in the House of Representatives.
The three-fifths compromise came after much fierce debate. Neither side was fully satisfied. But the country stayed united and got a constitution—no small feat.
Section 3 concerns the second legislative body, the Senate. Whereas members of the House of Representatives are elected by the people directly and serve two-year terms, senators are to serve six-year terms and are chosen by each state government.
Populous states would have more representatives than less populous ones, but every state would have the same number of senators—two. This gave the states an equal share of legislative power. The minimum age requirement to be a Senator was set at 30.
Sections 4, 5, and 6 establish the basic operating rules: when Congress shall meet, what constitutes a quorum, what to do with disorderly members, and so on.
Section 7 sets out the process for enacting legislation. A bill must receive the consent of both the House and the Senate to become a law. The President is also involved in this process. He can veto legislation. His veto, however, can be overridden by a two-thirds vote by both houses of Congress.
Passing laws—which by definition are restrictions on freedom—is not meant to be easy. It’s meant—unless there is overwhelming support—to be hard.
Section 8 lists the legislature’s many responsibilities such as establishing and equipping the Armed Forces, coining money, and regulating interstate commerce. Perhaps the most important of these responsibilities is articulated in the Taxing and Spending Clause, which allows Congress to collect taxes and to spend for the national defense and general welfare.
For the full script, visit: https://www.prageru.com/video/the-constitution-the-limited-powers-of-congress