Hashtag, Hobby Lobby, anyone?
Today, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that Hobby Lobby, a company run by religious individuals, would not be forced to provide free contraceptives to their employees as part of their health care benefits. Now Twitter has exploded with reactions, and there are some rumors that the President will use his power to overturn the ruling or at the very least “mitigate” the problems caused by this ruling.
This post is not about religious freedom nor is it about contraceptive coverage. It’s about the Constitution and the rights, powers, checks and balances that the supreme law of the land gives to our government.
Article 1, Section 1 reads: “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.”
This means that only Congress can make law.
The President may not make law.
He may not alter law.
The Supreme Court may not make law.
They may not alter law.
Article 1, Section 7 contains the following: “Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it becomes 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 … 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.”
This means that Congress makes the laws and votes on them, and then they have to get the President’s approval. If the President approves of the bill, he signs it, and BOOM, it’s a law. If he doesn’t approve, he sends it back to the Senate or the House (wherever the bill started out in the first place). That’s called a “veto” (Vee-Toe).
A veto doesn’t mean that the law is over and done with though. That would give the President an awful lot of power!
If the President vetoes a bill (a pre-law), it goes back to the Senate or House (wherever it started) with the President’s Objections, or reasons why he doesn’t want to sign the bill, and they have to vote on it again. If they can get a 2/3 vote in the Senate, and then get the House of Representatives to also get a 2/3 vote, then the bill becomes a law regardless of what the President has said.
The veto power makes it possible for the President to check the power of the law-makers, and the 2/3-vote override makes it possible for the law-makers to balance out that veto power. Both groups have power over each other and power in spite of each other.
Article 1, Section 7 also explains that if the President does not return a bill within 10 business days, it is passed as if it were signed.
The President cannot ignore a bill. He actually has to do something about it.
Article 2 begins explaining who may be elected as President and how that process works. Section 2 reads: “The President shall be Commander in Chief of [all the armed forces]…and he shall have the Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.”
He’s in charge of the military, and he can pardon offenders who he believes are innocent, unless they are elected officials. He can’t pardon himself or members of Congress.
“He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur”.
He makes treaties if the Senate says it’s okay. Here are some other things that the President has power to do with consent of the Senate.
- appoint ambassadors
- appoint public ministers and consuls
- appoint Supreme Court Judges
This gives the President power over who will be interpreting the laws, seeing as he cannot write the laws or change the laws.
The President may also “recommend to [Congress’s] consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”
He also is in charge of making sure that “the Laws be faithfully executed.”
The President cannot write, change, or interpret laws, but he can appoint the judges in charge of that interpretation, and he can veto any law that he doesn’t approve of. He is in charge of enforcing laws that have been passed.
Article 3 is all about the Judicial Branch. The judicial power is “vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”
The courts have power to interpret law, and all courts below the Supreme Court are established by Congress.
Section 3 of this article explains that “The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason” and that nobody will ever be convicted of treason without an open court and two witnesses testifying against them.
All of the different branches have power over one another.
You might want to turn up the volume on this video.
And you know, if you’re into this sort of thing, here’s the Schoolhouse Rock version:
Three ring circus? I didn’t say it.
I recommend the “I’m just a Bill” video also.