5.30.2017

Balance of Power

Article by: Scott Hall (scotthall.cnj@gmail.com)
            When in History, has the USA ever had a true “balance of power”? This question was shared with me not long after I announced that I was working on writing what you and many others are about to read.  A real thought is crossing the minds of millions of American citizens, has our elected government gone a bit too far or are we not focused on more “real” issues, is there an abuse of power, is there any power at all?  Healthcare repeal debacles, Immigration bans that flopped before they could be enacted, trying times many see here in the USA, even parts of our globe now think we are lead by blindness to deeper items, it is not a secret that the GOP or Republicans, are the majority of the political party in the Congress and the Presidency.  What does this all mean, will we survive the next four years without losing our values or killing off our poor or elderly to make way for a have or have not society?  Let us put on our truth glasses and examine what a balance of power means, branch by branch, and see for ourselves.
CONSTITUTION 101
            The first three sections of the Constitution of the United States, deal with the separation of powers, also referred to as the “balance of power”.  Those three branches are: The Executive, The Legislative and The Judiciary, thus, dividing the power of our government into three parts.  These separation of powers, was well thought out by our founding fathers, they established this to avoid tyranny by allowing the three parts to work together to accomplish tasks poised in this great nation and made them independent of one another, so that no one branch could execute more power than another without being – “Checked” by the other 2, this is also known as the system of checks and balances.  Each branch of the government as is listed in the Constitution has its own duties and responsibilities: The Executive branch – The President, implements the laws; The Legislative – The Congress, they make the laws; The Judiciary – The Supreme Court, they interpret the laws and decide on legal controversies.  This system of government, is credited to James Madison, at the Constitutional convention of 1787, Madison took a lead role in persuading the developers of the document we now know as our Constitution, to have the provisions for a separation of powers, by balancing government with a system that checks to make sure that no one branch had too much control. 
            An example of this type of system occurs every year; we know it as Tax Day, usually around April the 15th of every year.  Congress passes legislation in the tax laws, which the President appoints a director of the Internal Revenue Service to collect those taxes and the Supreme Court oversees to make sure that the laws are applied correctly.  Though a simple example, the idea is that no one branch can do anything alone, therefore, dividing up decisions into the three parts of government, just to collect the taxes for their budget, a budget that varies year to year, but has a large base to operate.  Those are more complex discussions, we will put this aside for now, but the idea here is clear, the laws of the land are created by Congress, put into action by the President (who can also Veto, which means “reject”) and interpreted by a Judicial branch, to insure that things are Constitutional.  This brings us to our next topic, in our USA now, many persons feel that the current President, Donald Trump is over reaching his power and that perhaps, Congress is allowing it by creating new rules, I’ve even heard it called similar to a crying child getting louder and louder until it gets its way.  Let us take a look and see if this indeed is true to form or is the President and our government blowing smoke around.
            When we think of “Balance of Power” many may envision a set of scales where one side must at least equal the other in order to be balanced, however, over many decades things were not so “peachy keen” when it comes to what each President sees as the power within their branch of government.  Dateline: 1952, President Truman seizes control of some steel mills, during the Korean war, a six member majority of the Supreme Court ruled that the President had over exceeded his authority, but also said “…the powers of the President are not limited to those solely expressed in Article II of the Constitution.” – had the Congress decided to not disapprove the extension of power, the action by the president would have been upheld and those mills would have been under presidential control.  This case is listed as Youngtown Sheet and Tube Company vs. Sawyer (1952).  The president isn’t the only one to face such woes while in office; the Congress is subject to this same scrutiny as well.
            In a case known as Morrison vs. Olson, the constitutionality of a special prosecutor was brought into focus by the courts (related to the Ethics in Government Act), this one, was tough, they had to determine which branch the special prosecutor belonged so that no one branch had this sole authority to call for one over the other.  In fact, Justice Rehnquist upheld the provisions within the Act, whereas Justice Scalia said, “the opinion of the court is a revolution in Constitutional Law” adding, “without separation of powers, the Bill of Rights is worthless”, this, circa 1980’s.  The courts ruled during the Nixon administration and all its woes that executive privilege, the power that is given to the president to not share certain information with other branches of government, is “not absolute” and “presumptive of power of privilege”, in short, this means no secrets can be harbored by one branch and no one check it to make sure it isn’t a breach of power, Nixon felt that power slip and avoided impeachment, Clinton came real close as well, so those powers are there, even if not in the face of all Americans on a daily basis. 
It would serve well at this point to mention that our government may be three branches but there are a few persons who make up this group: Legislative Branch; The Senate – 100 persons; The House of Representatives – 435 persons; Executive Branch; The President, The Vice President, Cabinet Members or advisors to the office of the President, including persons for Attorney General, Secretary of Defense, etc., (all appointed Cabinet members to the President, must be approved by the Senate with at least 51 votes or a ‘majority’, as is written in the Constitution); Judicial Branch; The Supreme Court, consisting of 9 members, whom are nominated by the President and again, must be approved by the Senate with 51 votes.  Oh, but wait, if this is the simple rule, why then did we hear the Senate enact “The Nuclear Option” in approving the latest appointee, or a better question:
            What is the Nuclear Option? Well, in a nut shell, the nuclear option is a last-resort, break in case of emergency way for the majority party in the Senate to overcome obstruction by the minority, by changing the rules of the Senate to avoid costly filibusters that could prevent or block approvals or legislation that would greatly affect the status of the US.  The rules in the current Senate require 60 votes to be a majority, but the nuclear option actually takes a step back to the Constitution, only requiring 51 votes, not just a party line, a pragmatic way to speed up the process “in case of emergency”, much like filling an empty seat in a 9 member panel so that no “ties” could happen, perhaps or perhaps not, we will leave history to decide that fate. Isn’t learning that the rhetoric our government uses as leverage of power nothing more than double talk for this is what the Constitution says - fun to know, don’t worry it isn’t for this author either, but then again, doesn’t absolute power corrupt absolutely, indeed it does and allegedly we have a checks and balance system in our government, in truth, we have smoke and mirrors when we instantly learn that the nuclear option is bologna and no, President Trump’s Congress isn’t alone in those words, Nixon, Harry Reid, Mitch McConnell and others have used it.  Now, knowing this one must ask, since when can the Senate change their own rules, that’s a great question, but not one for now, perhaps another examination by our Truth Glasses in a different article.
            This current administration, clarifying by listing Donald Trump as the current President of the United States, has seen a large amount of drama, turmoil, controversy and tons of things that are making the public pick sides on which is right or wrong by the country as a whole and in essence, the things that should bring America back to greatness (which on a personal note, I don’t think America has ever had a “not so great” title attached to it, I am sure historians or fact checkers could do that, so I will leave that to them).  What we have had, is a load of stuff that makes us feel penalized just for living within these borders, we also see real threats from outside, that we all question, “Just how crazy are things going to get?” The people of this land expect our leaders to maintain efficiency, defense against enemies, have good trade and stimulate the economy so that jobs will be created and we can all take our shot at the “American Dream”. So now that the whole fiasco over Russia has came out and many fingers are being pointed, tweets that either “Slam” or are “Unfair” rise to the top, people going literally hardcore over basic issues that we all want solved, unfortunately, in this current struggle for power, there is indeed an imbalance. 
BALANCE OF POWER!
            First, let us explore what an Executive Order is and does; A presidential policy directive that implements or interprets a Federal Statute, a Constitutional Provision or a Treaty.  The power to issue an executive order comes from Congress and the Constitution; it gives the president a power to set policy, without Congressional approval. In the specific issuance of this President’s immigration orders, it is issued under statutory authority from Congress and has the effect of law and enforceable immediately. So the challenge to the law is simple under US Law, this type of authority action, being enforceable by Congressional Law, can and is subject to Federal Courts to determine if the law is fair and just under the Constitution.
            President Trump has been noted as saying that he and his administration are being treated unfairly, many of his supporters are saying; give the man a chance to do his job.  In truth, he has only been in office for about 5 months, so for many to cry out that he has had plenty of chances, keep in mind, he still has quite a way to go before this first term is over.  Along his campaign trail, this former candidate and now office holder said or did some of the most unthinkable things anyone has probably ever heard on a campaign trail.  For a period of about a year, the only advertisements that went on air, were news stories of: Going to build a wall, going to repeal healthcare, going to shake up the trade world, going to strengthen our military, work on our infrastructure, punish those who try to build in another country to avoid taxes, lowering taxes and the list goes on.
            Not only, did these things fill the air, but along side of them, fights breaking out in rally’s from anti support groups and Trump himself saying, “Beat the crap outta ‘em”, then, the infamous mockery of the disabled news reporter, along with “Dirty Mexicans”, an invitation to Russia to openly hack Clinton and the infamous emails, a smack to China as well as ISIS and I will spare you the rest, but the message received by many was one of hate, bullying, narcissism, bigotry, power mongering and warned this may not be the person we want. What the GOP had offered up, was someone who would, “Drain the swamp”. A great idea, if it could be done and if it could be done, would it be done legally, our Truth Glasses must know.
            First, we will take a look at his Executive Order, on immigration, the first one. In January / February of 2017, the newly elected President wrote an executive order that banned travel and entry to many immigrants and entrants into the United States, the day it was implemented, airports and transportation went into a brief chaos.  Then, around the 4th of February, a Federal appeals judge rejected the restoration of his executive action, which primarily focused on Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, it was stopped cold and the President, tweeted this “The opinion of this ‘so-called’ judge is ridiculous and will be overturned!” The judge’s reasoning was that there was no support for the administration’s argument that we are directly under threat from any of those nations.  President Trump decided that after failing in an appeals court, he would again issue a new Executive Order, which once again, was rejected. 
            This President cried out against many, even citing the “relaxed” stance of the former administration’s policies, which by the way, Obama had his share of woes with immigration reform as well, June 23, 2016, President Obama said this after the Supreme Court blocked his Executive Authority, “For more than 2 decades, our immigration system has been broken and the fact that the Supreme Court couldn’t issue a decision today (they were split on the issue), hurts our country even further and takes us away from the country we aspire to be.” This means that the issue has been a huge one, since around 2001/2002, not long after a national tragedy, I can imagine that many in the Supreme Court look closely at the laws when it comes to those things, President Bush initiated several new policies, policies that have kept many things from happening, but also allowed for others to go unnoticed or directly challenged. 
            This is why we have a balance of power in these issues, so that no one President or Congress or Supreme Court Justice, can make a personal stance that goes against our founding fathers words in a document, created to avoid, Tyranny. The link to the original issuance of the Executive Order is at the bottom of this article, I encourage you all to read it and decide for yourself if it fits what we want, remember, Iraq, Libya are two countries we invaded and pretty much armed the “resistance” while the others are known Al-Qaeda or other terrorist group spots, with all of them having victims of this type of behavior and those who are serious about fleeing, having to go abroad, not just the USA. So, this is a prime example of how our system oversees things to insure there is clarity and legality in all that each branch does. Let’s move on.
            Among the many campaign issuances, was Trump’s promise to carry out a full repeal and replacement of the ACA, affectionately known as “Obama care” a health care law, that among the many expansions of coverage to the poor, was also a huge taxation to those who were currently paying premiums, promising no one would have to lose coverage and closing the gap on Medicare patients, from its inception to current day, one of the most contested issues in recent American history. Not long after the immigration issue, in March of 2017, members of his affiliated party went right to work, along the way, members of Congress reading, discussing it, some even calling it “Obama care light” pushed their way through it all and came up with the American Health Care Act, but failed to do one crucial thing: Get a majority vote to implement it.  The idea died and the President was noted as stating, “The best thing that could have happened, did happen, watch and see….it (the ACA) will implode, the Democrats will have no choice then but to come to us and say, let’s get together” Although controversial, many Americans agree, we all need health care coverage especially in the wake of rising pharmaceutical and hospitalization costs and that at some point, the markets have to be controlled, whether those companies like it or not, even the wealthiest of Americans may in fact sink a majority of their money into a surgery, if and when needed, the only answer here is bipartisan ship, one that keeps the good things and either eliminates the bad ones or makes corrections that reduce the pains of the costs, Congress voting, another example of the balance of power, needed to be upheld, in this country.
            We will close this article with a couple of quick facts and then a look at the Russia scandal facing our nation.  First, Mr. Trump was not going to sign legislation that extended the operation of the Federal Government, unless money for his wall promise was inserted into the bill, then of course, he retracted that notion, once they explained to him “we don’t have that much to spend right now”, he signed the extension, but it only goes to November, keep our fingers crossed, things don’t go spinning away like a marble on a slanted table. Mr. Trump, said he would drain the swamp, in his cabinet, he has made history, he has hired more Goldman Sachs persons to be in his cabinet than any other president in history, mostly investors and yep, stock exchange people, no wonder the markets exploded, they saw opportunity to control the nation, sitting right next to the most powerful seat in the world, but again, we will save that for another article, our focus right now, is Russia and the important probe going on of whether or not that country, influenced or had direct collusion with our now, President Trump.
            As each week passed by, from the onset of Mr. Trump’s inauguration, more and more bizarre items began to emerge, including the President pseudo blocking the members of the press from a crucial meeting with a Russian Ambassador.  Well, turns out, they were not alone in that room, a few photo’s emerged, then it was learned that intelligence secrets were “shared” almost openly, suddenly, a few members of his cabinet, such as Mr. Flynn, get subpoenaed on what they know, his own son in law also looked at for information, an FBI Director fired, a former CIA person testifying that Trump’s campaign was on their radar for a while and now, members of the cabinet resigning as well as a host of questions surrounding all this conflict and the low resonance of Impeachment, beginning to come into question.  The president, of course, continues to move about the world, even shoving world leaders aside as though his presence was more important than anyone in the room.  His visit around his holiness, the Pope, well, a picture is worth a thousand words, if you haven’t seen it (and not the meme’s), take a look and watch a smile fade from one’s face the moment he makes eye contact.  Looking at all this chaos and seemingly free abuse of power, to answer the question of whether or not to impeach him and anyone else who hasn’t or doesn’t resign, is simply to look at what is required to consider it:
            In the United States of America, Impeachment proceedings begin in Legislative Branch and in essence equates to some criminal charges while in office, however, Congress has in the past considered prior to the office when deciding to impeach and only two presidents have been successfully impeached, Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon does not count as he resigned his seat before impeachment came knocking; by the way, grounds for impeachment are: Treason, Bribery or ‘other high crimes and misdemeanors’.  The House of Representatives or more correctly any member therein, can bring about these charges at any time, in fact throughout history, several impeachment proceedings have came to light, though rarely fought vigorously, that is because the Senate has the final say so over the charges brought about, pretty much the House brings the charges and presents the evidence, the Senate oversees it much like a trial, where both sides can call witnesses to testify and along the in between, specific committees are set up for the particular type of charge/crime being presented.  If convicted in the Senate, the official is immediately discharged of their service and may also not be able to hold other offices or political posts.
            Now, since there are lots we know, highlights and tidbits of things going on, the question is, has this administration committed an act, that would mandate an Impeachment process?  Here is where it gets tricky, first, we must ask, has the House or any of its members presented this idea and if not, why not.  Trump admitted to firing director James Comey from the FBI as a result of the intensifying investigation going on into the extend of Russian involvement in the US Election or further.  Trump also tweeted, a rant about leaking recordings of conversations with a Federal Agent before he was fired.  Each person along the lines of the probe has either “excused” themselves or resigned or gets the Presidential version of “You’re Fired”.  Collusion with a known enemy of the United States is Treason, that aside, there is an obvious obstruction of justice charge in an ongoing investigation and yet, not a sound nor a word from the House about impeachment….yet.  As in any lawful investigation into a crime, evidence has to be gathered, which as this article is being typed, several persons have been asked to respond to the inquiry, along with piecing together other items and if enough evidence is presented, remember the in between special committees, well the probe is one of that type – anyway, once the evidence is gathered and enough concrete items come to pass, indeed, I am confident that someone in our House of Representatives will speak up, not for the people they represent, but for the very Constitution they took an oath to uphold, protect and ensure, from here, the only item remaining: Time, or more correctly, The necessary amount of time for our Democracy to show why we have a Balance of Power in place and never forget, when you grow weary of the same old ideas, and feel the need to shake things up, start first with Congress, those are the ones who represent you, instead of an unlimited ticket, give them term limits, take away their pensions, make them pay for the very same services we all do and yeah, they can keep the salary, so long as they work more than 10 months a year and if not, then let us all work to Balance that Power as well.
            One last thought before I close, Presidents are not the only ones that have been looked at for Impeachment, that list includes: July 7, 1797: William Blount, US Senator; March 12, 1804: Samuel Chase, US Supreme Court Associate Justice; March 2, 1876: William W. Belknap; US Secretary of War.
            The Constitution for the United States of America is the supreme law of the United States of America. It was completed on September 17, 1787, with its adoption by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was later ratified by special conventions in each state. It created a federal union of sovereign states, and a federal government to operate that union. It replaced the less defined union that had existed under the Articles of Confederation. It took effect on March 4, 1789 and has served as a model for the constitutions of numerous other nations. The Constitution of the United States of America is the oldest written national constitution in use.  
           

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