Following President Obama’s recent 23 executive orders relating to gun control, there have been several attacks on the validity of his power to create these orders. Many people, some from the left, but most of them from the right are outraged; this tyranny controlling the peoples’ lives in a perverse and unconstitutional manner. So what I want to explain today, are checks and balances. A lot of people have been calling on the legislative branch (the Congress) to nullify these orders- but what exactly has the Congress got to do with Obama’s orders?
So firstly, what are checks and balances? Checks and balances are part of the system in which the US is governed. This system is part of a larger idea known as “Separation of Powers”. What this means in the US is that there are three branches of government; each with their own responsibilities and powers, and each of them as powerful as each other. So what are the three branches of government?
Firstly, we have the legislative branch. This is Congress, the people who “make” the laws. These people can repeal, pass and amend laws.
Then we have the executive branch. This is the president and his cabinet, who “executes” the law. They’re basically in charge of running the country; making sure that the laws are followed, the best interest of the people are tended to, and the country is administered well.
Finally, we have the judicial branch. This is the court system, the people who “judge” or “interpret” the law. Made up of the district, appeals and the supreme courts, they apply the law to specific cases, and can change/reinterpret laws, usually through the Supreme Court.
So back to check and balances. What they are essentially, are a set of powers given to each of the three branches of government, which can override another branches orders. What this does is that it prevents one branch from becoming too powerful. Why does America need these rules? Well, think about it this way- If the president could just do whatever he liked and pass whatever laws he liked, then America would become an actual tyranny. Luckily, these checks and balances prevent the constitutional republic from becoming a tyranny, by ensuring that no branch has too much power and therefore ensuring that the interest of the people is always represented. Here are the most important checks and balances.
The Legislative Branch
-The ability to override a veto from the president (with 2/3 of the vote from both houses in Congress)
-The ability to make rules for how the government is run.
-The power of impeachment- this is when a federal executive (like the president) or a judiciary officer (like a supreme court justice) is arrested by the House and trialed by the Senate for high crimes.
-Ratifies treaties signed by the president
The Executive Branch
-The ability to veto a bill from Congress
-The ability to declare states of emergency and to publish executive orders
-The president can appoint people to the federal judiciary and roles in the executive (like his cabinet) with the approval of Senate.
-The power to pardon a criminal (except in cases of impeachment)
The Judicial Branch
-The ability to review laws and declare them unconstitutional, effectively nullifying them
-The ability to review presidential orders/acts and declare them unconstitutional
You see how all this works? The Congress can override the president’s veto and impeach him, the president can veto Congress’s bills, the president appoints judges, the judges can declare the presidents acts unconstitutional the judges can declare Congress’s laws unconstitutional, and the Congress can impeach judges and also helps appoint them. Basically, each of the three powers have certain abilities to override another power’s actions. This means that no branch with become too powerful and it also means that bad ideas that are made in only one or two branches aren’t going to apply to the whole of America.
So that’s checks and balances for you. I hope you all now understand how the Congress and the Supreme Court can override the President’s executive orders. Don’t hesitate to suggest terms for me to explain in the “ask” section of the blog and if you have any questions relating to checks, balances, separation of powers, president orders or anything related to this article, don’t hesitate to comment below.
(Note: In this article, anything that resembles political bias must not be taken as such. This article is purely for information and does not contain my opinion on any issues.)