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Friday Constitutional 7 – Article Two, Sections 1-4 , Presidential Powers

Happy Friday and welcome to the seventh installment of the Dog’s Friday Constitutional series! In this series the Dog is reading through the entire Constitution, clause by clause, and talking about what the meaning of each seems to be. Interpretation of the Constitution is a real field of expertise, and it is not the Dog’s field. So, if you find that the old hound has gone off the rails with his interpretation, make a comment and everyone can learn something!

If you are coming in at the middle of the series and want to read the rest (don’t you have a life?) you can find them at the these links:

Friday Constitutional 1 – Preamble, Sections 1 And 2
Friday Constitutional 2 – Article One, Sections 3 And 4
Friday Constitutional 3 – Article One, Sections 5 and 6
Friday Constitutional 4- Article One, Sections 7 and 8
Friday Constitutional 5 – Article One, Sections 9 and 10
Friday Constitutional 6 – Article 2, Presidential Powers, Sections 1-3

Last week we left off at Article Two, Section One, Clause Four.

Section One

Clause Four:

The Congress may determine the Time of choosing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

This clause gives the Congress the power to decide when the States must pick the Electors for the Electoral College and when they have to cast their votes for President. It also makes it clear that it has to be the same day for each in every state. This seems like a way to make sure that the early Electors were not swayed by the votes of other Electors.

Clause Five:

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

This is the clause that the Wingnuts have been trying to sue over to prevent President Elect Obama from taking office, on the spurious claim that he is some how not a natural born citizen of this nation. As you can see the arguments about British dual citizenship are completely bogus. This clause does not mention that chance one way or the other. It leaves it up for interpretation, but it seems to the Dog that if you were born in the United States, regardless of any other citizenship you might be entitled to, you have met the standard.

It also lays out that you must be 35 years old and have, if you were here prior to the ratification of the Constitution, been a citizen for at least 14 years. This is the highest age and citizenship requirement for federal office, which makes sense as it is the highest office.

Clause Six:

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office,the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.

Clause Six provides for the section of the Vice President if for any reason the President is no longer able to serve. The 25th Amendment changed this by allowing a president, or the Vice President and a majority of the executive branch Secretaries states to the Senate that the president is unable to discharge his office, that the Vice President will take over as President until he or she can resume their office. This Amendment was ratified in 1967 when the State of Nevada voted to ratify it.

It also allows the Congress to determine who would be the replacement if both the President and the Vice President were removed or unable to discharge their office. Currently that person is the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Clause Seven:

The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.

This clause discusses the way that a President is to be paid. It prevents any State or the United State as a whole from paying him or her anything other than this salary. It also prevents any increase or decrease of salary during the time of service by the President. This last part seem to be a way of keeping the Congress from putting the political screws to the President by messing with his pay.

Clause Eight:

Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:–"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."

This clause details the entire oath of office for the President. Note that it is carefully non-religious. It does not require swearing (usually done on a holy book) and it has not “so help me God”. It is also a major point for those that advocate for the impeachment of President Bush. In his term of office one of the things that we are sure has happened is the assault on the Constitution. Unfortunately there is a built in defense for the criminal Bush, in that his abilities are obviously very meager and so he may have protected it to the best of those lame abilities.

Section Two

Clause One:

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

Clause One is the “Commander and Chief” clause. It gives the president the power over the Army and Navy and the Militias of the States. It seems that those who are strong 2nd Amendment literalists always forget the other places that Militias are mentioned in the Constitution. This clause would seem to argue against the Supreme Courts recent decisions, but we will leave that to when we talk about Amendments.

There is also the prevision for the President to require written opinions from the Secretaries of the executive branch departments. The Dog finds that interesting as it seems to allow the President to make these folks commit to what they say in a way that can be referred to in the future. That would prevent them from saying one thing to him and another to Congress. Again we see the Framers reaching in a board, general way for accountability by the officers of the nation.

This is also where the President gets his pardon power. Now some of the more aggressive impeachment advocates have made the case that we should impeach now, as this would prevent the President from making the proactive pardons that we fear will prevent the investigation of torture. If you look closely at the wording, it does not say that a Impeached President could not issue pardons, but rather that he can not pardon or reprieve those that have been impeached.

Clause Two:

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; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

This is the “Advise and Consent” clause. It makes it pretty clear that it takes 2/3 of the Senators present at the time of the vote, to make any treaties, or appointments to the head of departments, or the Supreme Court or Ambassadorships. In fact until the Congress passed legislation that allowed the delegation of some offices any appointment was required to follow this method.

Conservatives during the Bush administration have made much of the Consent part of the clause. It is a typical of Repug thinking that they try to redefine this to mean that the Senate must give its consent to whomever the President nominates. This is clearly not the intent of the Framers. If it were they would have worded it differently. Instead a plain reading shows that the Senates job was and is to advise the President on his choices and if they agree then give their consent.

Clause Three:

The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

This is the clause that allows Recess appointments. Until this administration (how many time will the Dog have to say that in this series?) it was generally used to fill vacancies of critical importance. The abuse of this clause by the criminal Bush is what as made the Senate stay in pro forma secession for the last two years. President Bush used this power to force unacceptable appointments onto the nation.

When such a recess appointment is done, the appointee is only allowed to serve until the end of the Congress in which he or she is appointed. This was why Ambassador Bolton only served for two years are UN Ambassador.

Section Three

He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

This section only has the single clause above. It makes the prevision for the State of the Union address, though it does not require it be only once a year or even every year. It gives the President the power to call both houses of Congress into session, but only under extraordinary circumstances. This section most likely means in times when war is going to be declared or has been declared on us.

It also makes clear that it is the Presidents responsibility to execute all laws faithfully. This is where the criminal Bush administration signing statements get into trouble. The Constitution makes no provision for the President to not execute a law in any fashion other than the way it is written. It would seem to the Dog that signing statements in and of themselves might be reason for impeachment as they conflict with this Section, and his oath of office.

Section Four:

The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

The Dog knows that he has talked a lot about impeachment today (it seems to go with this president, no?) but this is the clause that seems to give the most credence to those that want to impeach the criminal President Bush. If you notice the wording it says “ Shall be removed from office” not may, not should but shall. The war crimes that Bush and his henchmen have admitted to have to meet the bar of “High Crimes”. It is a sad fact that the Framers never considered that there might be so partisan a body in the Senate that if these types of crimes were committed ideology would override their commitment to the Constitution. Every Repug Senator that would never vote to convict and remove the gang of criminals that have run this country for the last eight years has earned the everlasting scorn of the Framers.

We will call it a day right here. Up next Article Three and the Judicial Branch!

Well citizens, any thoughts? The floor is yours.

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Bill Egnor

Bill Egnor

I am a life long Democrat from a political family. Work wise I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and Freelance reporter for