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Flashcards in The Constitution Deck (40)
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S.E. Finer on separation of powers

'Like two halves of a bank note - each useless without the other'


Checks by the Courts

Declare a law unconstitutional - (eg. Shelby County v Holder 2013 struck down VRA 1965)

Declare the President's actions unconstitutional - (Eg. NLRB v Noel Canning - Obama 2014)


What did the Founding Fathers want regarding Federalism?

For limited government, whereby the federal government is limited to that which is necessary for the common good of the people.


Example of entrenched nature of Constitution

Difficult amendment procedure


Neustadt on separation of powers

[The Constitutional Convention] 'created a government of separated institutions sharing powers.'


Article 4

Defines states rights


Which foundations are the principle of limited government based upon?

Individual rights

Popular sovereignty


Types of power

Delegated - (Can be found in the first three articles of the constitution)

Implied (eg. Article 1, Section 8)

Reserved (The Tenth Amdendment) - Federalism

Concurrent (Possessed by both state and federal government, eg. Power to collect taxes)


Factors explaining why so few amendments have been passed

Founding Fathers created a deliberately difficult process

Constitution is unspecific and vague

Supreme Court's power of judicial review

Constitution held in degree of veneration by many Americans


Amendment process

Proposed by 2/3 of the House and Senate

Ratified by 3/4 of the state legislatures


Article 2

Provides the President with power


Example of a Presidential pardon

Bill Clinton on Mark Rich 1999



The application of extra legal safeguards to a constitutional provision to make it more difficult to amend or abolish it


Checks by Congress on President

Amend/delay/reject the president's legislative proposals (eg. Refusal to fund Trump's border wall - 2018)

Override the President's veto (eg. Obama's veto on the Justice Against Sponsor's of Terrorism Act - 2016)

The power of the purse - Article I, Section 8/9 (eg. Foreign Assistance Act 1974 - Ended funding of Vietnam War, threby forcing Nixon to withdraw troops and end war

Refuse to approve Presidential appointments/ratify Presidential treaties (eg. Merrick Garland - 2016)

Impeachment - (eg. Bill Clinton - 1998-99)


Checks by Congress on Courts

Propose constitutional amendments - (eg. 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18 - 1971)

Refuse to approve a judicial nomination - (eg. Merrick Garland - 2016)

Impeachment - (eg. Samuel Chase - 1804)


Article 6

Establishes constitutional supremacy


Enumerated powers

First three articles of the constitution

Powers delegated to the three branches of the federal government


Pro divided government leading to less effective government

Treatment of Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas by a Democrat-controlled Senate

Impeachment proceedings conducted against Clinton by a Republican-controlled Senate


Article 1

Provides Congress with power


Supremacy clause

Found in Article VI

States that the Constitution 'shall be the supreme law of the Land'


Montesquieu on separation of powers

'When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person...there can be no liberty'


Pro divided government leading to more effective government

Bills and treaties scrutinised more closely

Nominees questioned more rigorously

Only twice in the last 50 years has Congress overridden a veto of a President of its own party

Not since 1935 has the Senate rejected a treaty of a President of its own party


James Madison on checks and balances

'Ambition counter-checking ambition'


Necessary and proper clause

Article I, Section 8 empowers Congress to make all laws 'necessary and proper' to carry out the federal government's duties


Features of the US constitution


Blend of specificity and vagueness

Entrenched provisions


Checks by the President

Veto a Congressional bill - (eg. February 2015 - Obama vetoed bill that would have approved Keystone XL pipeline)

Nominate judges

Power of pardon

Bully pulpit


Anti current amendment process

Overly difficult to amend, thereby maintaining outdated provisions (electoral college)

Enhances the power of the unelected Supreme Court to make interpretative amendments

States have an equal voice regardless of population


Pro current amendment process

Prevents temporary opinion having a long-lasting effect (prohibition)

Supermajorities prevent a small majority from imposing its will on a large minority

Ensures support of both federal and state governments


Implied powers with an example of one

Powers possessed by the federal government by inference from those powers delegated to it in the Constitution

eg. 'Necessary and proper clause' - Article I, Section 8


Principles of the Constitution

Separation of powers

Checks and balances