Friday, January 28, 2011

Govt by Jimbo: Article I part 1

It should be noted, as I begin the first of my “Government By Jimbo” posts, that I am by no means a Constitutional Scholar. I am a high school graduate, with a limited amount of college (Including one class on the constitution and criminal law) and a perhaps greater interest in history and the government than your average bear. I’m am not a lawyer, nor do I have any legal background. Aside from the single aforementioned class, my experience with the US Constitution is that I have read it a few times. My interest here is mostly to share my take on the document that I have sworn to support and defend with my life. My lack of expertise here could also be seen as a potential plus-my conclusions in this case are not necessarily tainted by prior lessons from others, I’m simply calling it as I read it.

Also, I make no attempt to hide the fact that I have a potential political bias with my conservative views on the government, but I’ll do my best not to let that color my conclusions. I’ll be writing things mostly on how the government should appear to operate as based on the Constitution, and I’m not going to make more than the occasional stab at how things are *actually* run. In certain cases, I may also provide a note on something that, in Jimbos perfect world, would be different. So without further ado, the inaugural post to “Government by Jimbo”

My copy of the Constitution was found at

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Jimbos Personal Opinion: The preamble is largely self-explanatory. It provides an explanation for the Constitutions existence, and a basic scope of purpose. It should be noted though, that the preamble contains the often cited, often used and abused clause of “To promote the general welfare”. The General Welfare clause seems to be often abused by the government to pass things that would otherwise seem be outside of the Constitutions range, such as the recent Health-Care bill. However, the preamble is only there to define the *purpose* of the Constitution, and as far as I’m concerned, no powers should be derived from it. It’s the Constitution *itself* that provides for the general welfare, not a free pass for the government to simply do as it sees fit. Addendum: I also note that the "General Welfare" is mentioned again in Article I Section 8. This renders my above point pretty much moot, however, given that there are no guidelines for what the General Welfare consists of, I feel that the will of the public, sending their Congressmen to Washington to represent *their* wishes should be the ultimate deciding factor here.

Article I - The Legislative Branch
Section 1 - The Legislature
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.
Note By Jimbo: Every power listed below is given to the legislature, however I take this to mean that anything NOT mentioned is outside of what Congress is allowed to do.

Section 2 - The House

The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.
No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years, and been seven Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.
Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. As was noted by the website, this last clause was modified by the 14th amendment. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct. The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the State of New Hampshire shall be entitled to choose three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five and Georgia three.
When vacancies happen in the Representation from any State, the Executive Authority thereof shall issue Writs of Election to fill such Vacancies. Note by Jimbo: It would appear from this last sentence that special elections within the House of Representatives ARE legal, and without a Constitutional amendment stating otherwise, an *appointment* would be unconstitutional, and thus, invalid, regardless of any laws passed by Congress, as the law would also be unconstitutional.
The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment.

Section 3 - The Senate

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.
Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies. No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen. Note by Jimbo: The 17th Amendment modified this clause to allow the direct election of Senators by the people. It also allows for special elections in the case of vacancies, BUT it allows for a temporary appointment until an election can be held, with no time-frame for when that needs to happen, This, an appointment could be valid for the remainder of that Senators term.
The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided.
The Senate shall choose their other Officers, and also a President pro tempore, in the absence of the Vice President, or when he shall exercise the Office of President of the United States.
The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all impeachments. When sitting for that Purpose, they shall be on Oath or Affirmation. When the President of the United States is tried, the Chief Justice shall preside: And no Person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two thirds of the Members present.
Judgment in Cases of impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.
Note By Jimbo: Impeachment is mentioned under both the House and Senate sections, but it is worded slightly different in each case. While the House has the sole power of impeachment, the Senate has the sole power to try impeachment. I take this to mean that the House is granted to power to initiate impeachment proceedings, while the Senate actually executes the trial itself. If anyone has more knowledge about this, feel free to share.

Section 4 - Elections, Meetings

The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Place of choosing Senators.
The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, and such Meeting shall be on the first Monday in December, (changed by the 20th Amendment) unless they shall by Law appoint a different Day.

Section 5 - Membership, Rules, Journals, Adjournment

Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members, and a Majority of each shall constitute a Quorum to do Business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may be authorized to compel the Attendance of absent Members, in such Manner, and under such Penalties as each House may provide. Jimbos Personal Opinion: In the days where mail and travel could take weeks, a simple majority may have sufficed. In the days of completely instant communication and global travel, I find this unacceptable. Members of Congress should be there every day that Congress is in session, without some form of valid excuse. Running for reelection is not a valid excuse in my world. Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings, punish its Members for disorderly Behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a Member.
Each House shall keep a Journal of its Proceedings, and from time to time publish the same, excepting such Parts as may in their Judgment require Secrecy; and the Yeas and Nays of the Members of either House on any question shall, at the Desire of one fifth of those Present, be entered on the Journal.

Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting.

Section 6 - Compensation

The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States. Modified by the 27th Amendment, and will be covered later. They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office. Note By Jimbo: Section 6 essentially gives members of Congress diplomatic immunity in their own country. It also would seem, from the wording on ’emoluments’ to prohibit bribes, and could be argued that it prevents any monetary offerings from special interest groups as well. Using a Republican for example, if Dick Cheney is affiliated with Haliburton, and they contribute to his efforts while in office in such a way that it makes him personally richer, the Constitution says NO. This would also apply to anyone currently holding office, while running for reelection. It also, obviously, prevents a Congressman from simultaneously holding office elsewhere in the government, for good reason.

I will continue with the remainder of Article I tomorrow, as this is starting get long and unwieldy for a blog post. Although I may not necessarily have a note or interpretation for every section in the Constitution, I still plan to publish it all, in the spirit of continuity. If you’re really bored by it, simply scroll until you see red text, read the relevant portion of the Constitution, and move on.

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