Checks and Balances
Our Founding Fathers were fearful of their Federal government becoming abusive to the people. The accompanying fear of an abusive system of government is a run-a-way government that is not being prudent in how the people’s money is spent. Due to these fears the Founding Fathers sought ways the central government’s powers could be controlled. A system of Checks and Balances was established to bridle the activities of the Federal government.
The Founding Fathers felt that the State leaders were best prepared to protect the people’s rights from a run-a-way government so a political wall was established between the people and the Federal government. Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution defines what the Federal government was allowed to do.
James Madison the acknowledged Father of the Constitution stated that the powers granted to the Federal government are few and defined. A short list of twenty powers were assigned to the Federal government; limiting its powers and responsibilities. These powers were given by the State governments to the Federal government.
In Article 1, Section 8 the Federal government was given the twenty powers that the States felt were best suitable for a Federal government to be allowed to do. The Federal government was restricted to these twenty powers. Any increase in the powers assigned the Federal government would have to be modified by the people.
Bill of Rights
Even with the Checks and Balances that were placed into the Constitution to protect the rights of the people some of the Founding Fathers were still hesitant to sign-onto the Constitution. To get the acceptance of these Founding Fathers the “Bill of Rights” was added to the Constitution.
The Bill of Rights goes into greater clarity defining the powers the Federal government is NOT allowed to do. It was felt by many of the Founding Fathers that the central government would attempt to over step their specified list of powers if the Bill of Rights were not added to the constitutional document.
Balance of Power
The checks and balances ensure a balance of power. The structure of the Federal government creates a balance of power. The checks established in the constitution were created by the Founders to keep the Federal government under control.
The House of Representatives has the assigned responsibility to protect the rights of the people. House Representatives are elected by the people to represent their needs for a period of two years. The representatives were to be subject to the people thereby protecting the people’s rights.
The U. S. Senators were to be appointed by their respective State legislature. The Senators were assigned the responsibility to represent the rights and needs of their State. These Senators were to report back to their State’s legislature actions that were being taken at the federal level of government. The State legislature would then decide what actions the U. S. Senators would take for the benefit of their state.
The President of the United States was to be the administrator of the House of Representatives as well as the Senate protecting the rights and freedom of the people along with the States. In this way there is a balance of powers created designed to protect the unalienable rights of the people.
The key to the established checks within the constitution is the VETO authority of each of the branches of government. The House of Representatives has the ability to VETO actions taken by the SENATE as well as actions taken by the PRESIDENT of the United States. In turn, the Senate has VETO power over the House of Representatives as well as the President. The President in turn has VETO authority over the actions taken by the House and Senate.
It is these VETO powers giving authority to each of the branches of the Federal government that create the “checks” of powers and abuse. Use of the VETO authority creates the balance of power as it guarantees that NO laws can be passed unless the people’s rights and the state’s rights are fully protected.
Main Duties of the House of Representatives
The House members have the power to VETO legislation that does not benefit their electorate the people. The House of Representatives has the power to tax the States. No where within the original constitution was the Federal government given the right to tax the people directly. Revenue required by the Federal government was to be levied onto the States. The House has the power to SPEND; the power to BORROW. The House of Representatives are responsible for the GENERAL welfare of the people. The House is responsible to handle affairs that deal with multiple States. Decisions of the House of Representatives can commit the States funds as well as actions.
Responsibilities of the Senate
The Senators were to be the “sentinels” for the States to protect their State’s rights. Senators were to be appointed by their state legislature for a period of six years. The Senate was designed to be a stable element cooling the actions of the House and President of the United States. The Senate terms were established to be for a six year period along with being staggered so as to avoid emotional political turmoil. The Senators were to be the stabilizing influence at the Federal government level.
The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court was established to ensure that the constitutional provisions were adhered to by all parties. The Supreme Court was to be the “watchdogs” of the constitution to further protect the unalienable rights and freedom of the people.
The Supreme Court was given the power and authority to overrule the actions of the President and the bi-camel congress if actions taken were found to be contrary to the limitations and powers established in the constitution. In this way excesses of government could be controlled.
This system of checks and balances worked well for over 130 years. The people’s rights as well as the State’s rights were protected. In 1913 the established checks and balances were drastically altered creating many of the problems we as a nation are undergoing today. The enactment of the 16th and 17th amendments have virtually destroyed the established checks and balances found in the Founding Fathers Constitution.