Brushing Up On The Constitution (part 4)

My apologies right at the start for the three week break in this series. I'd like to say it's because there was plenty else to blog about (which there was), but chalking it up to my natural laziness is probably a lot more accurate. Setting that aside...

Up today are Article One, Section Seven and Article One, Section Eight. In other words, bills, or acts of Congress, and the powers of Congress. Section Eight is actually why I started on this endeavor in the first place, because I think it highlights just exactly how far the country has gotten away from its founding document. If you need a refresher on what has come before, follow the links to part one, part two, and part three of the series.

Article One, Section Seven:

A1.S7.C1: Sect. 7. All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments, as on other bills.

The House is responsible for starting bills dealing with bringing money into the government. Any other type of bill can start in either the House or the Senate. Even with revenue-generating bills, however, the Senate can propose amendments to them, including material that was not originally in the bill.

A1.S7.C2: Every bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senates shall, before it become a law, be presented to the President of the United States; if he approve; he shall sign it; but if not, he shall return it, with his objections, to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the objections at large on their journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the bill, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a law. But in all such cases the votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and the names of the persons voting for and against the bill shall be entered on the journal of each House respectively. If any bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a law in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a law.

Even after a bill is passed by both the House and the Senate, it is not law unless it is approved and signed into law by the President. If he does not approve of the bill, he sends it back to the body which originally created the bill (the House or Senate, depending), along with notation of what he did not approve of in the bill. In common usage, this is referred to as a veto. Each body can then reconsider the bill, and if both agree with a 2/3rds majority, can pass the bill into law without the president's signature.

Any bill that the President does not act upon (either sign or send back as unacceptable) after ten working days (Sunday is not considered a working day for these purposes) is considered to have been signed into law. The exception to this is if Congress prevents the President from returning a bill to them as unacceptable by adjourning their session, in which case the bill will not be considered as having been signed into law.

A1.S7.C3: 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 re-passed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the rules and limitations prescribed in the case of a bill.

Any bill that requires the approval of both the House and the Senate must also be approved by the President, or disapproved by him, and subsequently re-passed by the House and Senate by 2/3rds majorities.

Article One, Section Eight:

A1.S8.C1: Sect. 8. The Congress shall have power To lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States; but all duties; imposts and excises, shall be uniform throughout the United States;

Congress can impose and collect taxes, pay the debts of the national government, provide for the military, and for the general wellbeing of the nation. Also, any taxes imposed by the congress have to be the same in all parts of the United States.

Note that this does not say the general wellbeing or welfare of the people, though the courts have construed the term to mean this. This is the technicality through which we have our current systems such as Welfare.

A1.S8.C2:To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

Congress has the power to borrow money "on the credit of the United States". (Anybody know what the credit limit of the government of the United States is?)

A1.S8.C3:To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes;

Congress has the power to oversee and put limits on commerce with foreign nations, commerce between the states (also referred to as interstate commerce, and has this power ever been abused), and with the Indian tribes.

A1.S8.C4:To establish an uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies, throughout the United States;

Congress will establish the rules pertaining to naturalization of immigrants (the process of becoming a citizen of the United States), which will be the same for all immigrants, and also laws pertaining to bankruptcy.

A1.S8.C5:To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;

Congress oversees the coining of money and its value (questions have been raised as to the constitutionality of paper money based on the wording of this sentence), as well as the valuation of foreign currency, and sets the standards of weights and measures.

A1.S8.C6:To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;

Congress sets the punishments for counterfeiting the currency of the country.

A1.S8.C7:To establish post-offices and post-roads;

This invests in congress the power to create post offices and roads for the use of the mail system. (The USPS now has the 35th highest revenue of any company in the world, just below Home Depot. They trail by $400,000,000.00, which looks like a lot until you consider that that's all the difference there is between two businesses pulling in $69,000,000,000 each per year. For comparison, this is slightly higher than the $68,815,000,000 GDP of Pakistan. Yes, I know it's constitutional... it says so right here, but the USPS alone is pulling in as much money as a medium-sized country generates per year. Amazing, isn't it?)

A1.S8.C8:To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

This gives congress the power to establish intellectual property laws, written to "promote the progress of science and useful arts". There is some argument now as to how well the intellectual property laws as written are actually promoting the progress of science, but this is the intent of them.

A1.S8.C9:To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;

Congress has the power to create the lesser court system. This, for instance, is where the district court system comes from.

A1.S8.C10:To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas and offences against the law of nations;

Congress defines what constitutes piracy and felony on the high seas, and the punishment of the same.

A1.S8.C11:To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

Congress has the power to declare war, to issue a letter of marque and reprisal (which is, to officially empower a person or persons to go beyond the boundaries of the nation to retrieve or destroy the assets of a hostile person or organization in roughly the amount that said hostile person or organization had done within this country. See the Wikipedia entry for more.), and to create rules pertaining to persons and property captured during military action.

A1.S8.C12:To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

Congress can raise and support the army of the United States, but cannot designate money for the military more than two years in advance. In other words, congress has to oversee the funding of the military on a fairly constant basis.

A1.S8.C13:To provide and maintain a navy;

In addition to the army, congress is also to create and maintain a naval force.

A1.S8.C14:To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

Also, congress is to make rules for the governing and regulation of the army and navy.

A1.S8.C15:To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions;

Congress is to provide for a means to call out the state militias for the purposes of enforcing the laws of the union, suppressing insurrections, and repelling invasions. In common current terms, this generally refers to the National Guard.

A1.S8.C16:To provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

In addition to the above, congress is also to provide organization, armament, and disciplinary measures for the militia, as well as for oversight for any of them who may be employed as part of the national military. However, the states are responsible for the appointment of officers and for the training of their militias.

A1.S8.C17:To exercise exclusive legislation, in all cases whatsoever, over such district (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular States, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the Legislature of the State in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dock-yards, and other needful buildings;--and,

Congress has the power to oversee and legislate in regards to the seat of government (now known as Washington, D.C.), as well as over other government installations such as, but not limited to, forts, magazines, arsenals, docks, and "other needful buildings".

A1.S8.C18: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.

Finally, congress has the power to make any law necessary to execute the powers granted to it in the constitution.

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