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On the Nature of "Nation"

United States Constitution – Article I sec 8


This section lists (enumerates) powers explicitly assigned to Congress. Some are also mentioned elsewhere in the Constitution. Some are more specific than others. This is not the complete list.

Section 8

(clause 1)

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 has the power to raise revenue by imposing and collecting:

  • Taxes,
  • Duties,
  • Imposts,
  • and Excises.

Note that Taxes were not included in the uniformity requirement. As the word “Excises” is followed by a comma instead of a semicolon, I take it to mean that this power to raise revenues is only for the purpose of:

  • Paying the Debts of the United States.
  • Funding the common Defense of the United States.
  • Funding the general Welfare of the United States.

The big question here is just what falls under the umbrella of “general welfare”?

(clause 2)

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

Congress must authorize the borrowing of money. Pretty straightforward stuff. Of course, it comes with the implied mandate to maintain the credit-worthiness of the United States, and to repay borrowed money. The Framers would have known, they had the debt accumulated from the Revolutionary War to repay. One of the reasons for a strong central government was the inability of a weak central government to repay that debt.
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October 23, 2011 Posted by | Article I, Const. Review, Const. Second Reading | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

United States Constitution – Article I sec 7


Section 7

(clause 1)

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 of Representatives is the House most closely tied to the citizens. Direct election and a two-year “short leash” make them the most accountable to the voters. As such, they are the ones responsible for initiating the raising of revenues. This means Taxes, Duties, Imposts, Excises, and borrowing. This does not mean spending Bills must originate in the House of Representatives.

(clause 2)

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, 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.

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September 9, 2011 Posted by | Article I, Const. Review, Const. Second Reading | , , , , , | Leave a comment

United States Constitution – Article I sec 4


Section 4

(Clause 1)

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

The state legislatures determine the details of holding an election, but Congress can overrule them – except for where to select a Senator. I assume that the last little detail was due to the state legislature selecting the Senators, which would make this an oversight in the 17th amendment, which changes the selection of Senators to a direct popular vote.

(Clause 2)

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.

I find this to be one of the more curious clauses.

Congress must meet at least once every year, starting on the first Monday in December. What makes this so curious is that section 2 of the 20th amendment changes the starting date. This clause states that Congress can change the date through legislation, which means that an amendment was not needed to make the change. Granted, the 20th amendment is about presidential term limits and the succession, but they did throw in a change to the starting date for a Session of Congress. Furthermore, they kept the “unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day” wording. This tells me that the people who wrote the 20th amendment understood that this part of the amendment could have been done in statute. Curious.

<= Article I sec 3
Article I sec 5 =>

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September 5, 2011 Posted by | Article I, Const. Review, Const. Second Reading | , , , , | Leave a comment

Constitution of the United States – Article I sec 3


Section 3 deals with the composition of the Senate:

Section 3

(clause 1)

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.

Where the House represents each State according to its population, the Senate represents the States on an equal basis. This keeps the more populous states from drowning the voice of the less populous states.

Senators are also elected for a longer term than Representatives. This allows for the greater accumulation of experience among Senators. More expertise is asked and expected of them.

With equal representation between states, and being chosen by the state Legislature, Senators are apparently intended to be the professionals of Congress and represent their states at the governmental level rather than directly represent the citizens.

(clause 2)

Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.

Senators are divided into three classes, which are elected for overlapping terms. This allows for greater stability in the Senate than might be realized in the House.
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September 1, 2011 Posted by | Article I, Const. Review, Const. Second Reading | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Constitution of the United States – Article I Sec 2


Section 2 deals with the composition of the House of Representatives:

Section 2

(Clause 1)

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.

Suffrage (voter eligibility) for electing a Member of the House of Representatives is the same as eligibility for voting to elect a member of the equivalent state chamber. In other words, the states determine voter eligibility for electing a Representative. Representatives have two-year terms.

(Clause 2)

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.

I admit that when I got to the second “who shall not”, I got lost in the double-negatives for a moment. I even went back to the image of the written document to verify the wording. The tautology can be tricky, so in plainer wording:
Someone cannot be a Representative unless they:

  • have attained at least twenty-five years of age; and
  • have been a citizen of the United States for at least seven years; and
  • are, at the time of election, a resident in the state in which elected

Besides a bit of confusion, another consequence of the double-negative is that this is not an exhaustive list of qualifications. Other requirements can be added, but these must also be met. For example: if a state decided that its representatives must have resided in the state at least ten years, or be a landowner, it would not violate this clause.
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August 30, 2011 Posted by | Article I, Const. Review, Const. Second Reading, Constitution | , , , , | Leave a comment

Constitution of the United States – Article I Sec 1


Section 1

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

The authority to write new laws and amend old ones is assigned to Congress. Congress is divided into two chambers: a Senate, and a House of Representatives. This seems pretty simple and straightforward, but there are a few lines of thought that bear upon it.

Line-Item Veto

The Line Item Veto Act of 1996 (104th Congress, S.4/H.R.3136) gave Clinton42 the power to delete portions of appropriation bills that Congress had agreed to.

SEC. 2. LINE ITEM VETO AUTHORITY.

 (a) IN GENERAL– Notwithstanding the provisions of part B of title X of the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, and subject to the provisions of this section, the President may rescind all or part of any dollar amount of any discretionary budget authority specified in an appropriation Act or conference report or joint explanatory statement accompanying a conference report on the Act, or veto any targeted tax benefit which is subject to the terms of this Act if the President–

 (1) determines that–

(A) such rescission or veto would help reduce the Federal budget deficit;
(B) such rescission or veto will not impair any essential Government functions; and
(C) such rescission or veto will not harm the national interest; and

 (2) notifies the Congress of such rescission or veto by a special message not later than ten calendar days (not including Sundays) after the date of enactment of an appropriation Act providing such budget authority or a revenue or reconciliation Act containing a targeted tax benefit.

The authority was aimed specifically at budget bills, but I do not consider that relevant to the Constitutionality of it. It was authored by republicans and supported primarily by them. It was a cuts-only approach that overwhelmingly favored conservative ideology, and I am profoundly glad that we never found out how a republican President would abuse such power.

A Presidential line-item veto would be an authority that just begs to be abused.

It was ruled unconstitutional in 1998, but the point I want to make here is that it gave the President a legislative power. A power specifically allocated to Congress by the Constitution.

Negotiation and compromise are essential to democracy. It is the difference between democracy and totalitarianism. For the President to be able to modify the compromise reached by the Congress invalidates the entire process and corrupts democracy.

Signing Statements

Presidential Signing Statements have been around for a long time, but Bush43 used it ruthlessly to functionally alter legislation to his liking – thus making them a de facto exercise of legislative power. It represents, in my opinion, the same corruption of the democratic process represented by the line-item veto. The American Bar Association reached the same conclusion. Signing Statements have also been used to infringe on the authority of the Judicial Branch.

Delegation of Legislative responsibilities to the Administrative Branch.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 deeply convoluted the legislative process by granting the President authority to raise Revenue through borrowing. It then turns around and allows Congress to challenge the actions they authorized, forcing a veto or a default. This was a purely partisan political move intended to shift responsibility (and political backlash) from Congress to the President. It was a contemptible perversion of the constitutional separation of powers.

That’s a lot to read into a one-liner.

<= Preamble
Article I, scc 2 =>

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August 23, 2011 Posted by | Article I, Const. Review, Const. Second Reading, Constitution | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Constitution of the United States – Article I


Article I

Article I of the Constitution of the United States defines the Legislative Branch of the federal government: Congress. First among the co-equal branches: This is the original text, with reformatting and the clauses numbered.

Section 1

All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

Section 2

    • The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and
    • the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.
  1. No Person shall be a Representative who shall not
    • have attained to the Age of twenty five Years,
    • and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States,
    • and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.
  2. When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies.
  3. The House of Representatives
    • shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers;
    • and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Section 3

  1. The Senate of the United States shall be composed of
  2. Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.
  3. No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have
    • attained to the Age of thirty Years,
    • and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States,
    • and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen.
  4. The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.
  5. The Senate shall chuse their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the Absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.
    • The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation.
    • When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside:
    • And no Person shall be convicted without the Concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
    • Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States:
    • but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Section 4

    • The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof;
    • but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.

Section 5

    • Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members,
    • and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business;
    • but a smaller Number may adjourn from day to day,
    • and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide.
  1. Each House may
    • determine the Rules of its Proceedings,
    • punish its Members for disorderly Behaviour,
    • and, with the Concurrence of two thirds, expel a Member.
  2. Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings,
    • and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy;
    • and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.
  3. Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn
    • for more than three days,
    • nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.

Section 6

    • The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services,
      • to be ascertained by Law,
      • and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.
    • They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest
      • during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses,
      • and in going to and returning from the same;
    • and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
  1. No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected,
    • be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased during such time;
    • and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.

Section 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.
    • Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, 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.
    • 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 repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

Section 8

  1. 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;
  2. To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
  3. To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
  4. To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
  5. To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
  6. To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
  7. To establish Post Offices and post Roads;
  8. 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;
  9. To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
  10. To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
  11. To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
  12. To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
  13. To provide and maintain a Navy;
  14. To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
  15. To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
    • 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;

    • 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
  16. 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.

Section 9

  1. The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.
  2. The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of
    • Rebellion
    • or Invasion

    the public Safety may require it.

  3. No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
  4. No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.
  5. No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.
    • No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another;
    • nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.
    1. No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law;
    2. and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.
    • No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States:
    • And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any
      1. present,
      2. Emolument,
      3. Office,
      4. or Title,

      of any kind whatever, from any

      • King,
      • Prince,
      • or foreign State.

Section 10

  1. No State shall
    • enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation;
    • grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal;
    • coin Money;
    • emit Bills of Credit;
    • make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts;
    • pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts,
    • or grant any Title of Nobility.
  2. No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress,
    • lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection Laws:
    • and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States;
    • and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Control of the Congress.
  3. No State shall, without the Consent of Congress,
    • lay any Duty of Tonnage,
    • keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace,
    • enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power,
    • or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.

August 23, 2011 Posted by | Article I, Const. First Reading, Const. Review | , , , | Leave a comment

Constitution of the United States – Preamble


We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Preamble: an introductory statement; especially : the introductory part of a constitution or statute that usually states the reasons for and intent of the law.

And what are the reasons and intents? In Order to:

> form a more perfect Union

More perfect, not completely perfect:

utopia

  1. : an imaginary and indefinitely remote place
  2. often capitalized : a place of ideal perfection especially in laws, government, and social conditions
  3. : an impractical scheme for social improvement

> establish Justice

Justice:

  • the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.

> insure domestic Tranquility

Tranquil:

  • a : free from agitation of mind or spirit
  • b : free from disturbance or turmoil

> provide for the common defence

defense:

    • a : the act or action of defending
    • b : a defendant’s denial, answer, or plea
    • a : capability of resisting attack
    • b : defensive play or ability
    • a : means or method of defending or protecting oneself, one’s team, or another; also : a defensive structure
    • b : an argument in support or justification
    • c : the collected facts and method adopted by a defendant to protect and defend against a plaintiff’s action
    • d : a sequence of moves available in chess to the second player in the opening
    • a : a defending party or group (as in a court of law)
    • b : a defensive team
  1. : the military and industrial aggregate that authorizes and supervises arms production

> promote the general Welfare

Welfare:

  • the state of doing well especially in respect to good fortune, happiness, well-being, or prosperity.

> secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity

Liberty:

  1. the quality or state of being free:
    • a : the power to do as one pleases
    • b : freedom from physical restraint
    • c : freedom from arbitrary or despotic control
    • d : the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges
    • e : the power of choice
  2. a : a right or immunity enjoyed by prescription or by grant : privilege

While the body of the Constitution defines the structure, authorities, and parameters of government, the preamble defines the purpose and responsibilities of that government.

<= A Forward
more perfect Union =>

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August 15, 2011 Posted by | Const. First Reading, Const. Review, Const. Second Reading | , , , | 1 Comment

   

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