Is Congress More Powerful Than The President?

States Hold Power, Not Washington

The Founding Fathers would be astonished to find how politicized and federalized our society has become. For decades, we’ve witnessed the steady accumulation of presidential power. In fact, a lot of policies become a federal issue to be resolved by Washington. However, these policies which are dictated from an imperial capital isn’t the system the Founding Fathers designed!

In Mein Kampf, Hitler spoke with delight about how governments around the world were becoming more centralized. He said, “A powerful national government may encroach considerably upon the liberty of individuals as well as of the different States and assume the responsibility for it.”

Jefferson warned of the federalization of the United States. He said:

When all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated [the British Empire].

In other words, if Washington dictates what goes on in our nation we’ll become the enemy we once defeated.

The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution states, “All powers not delegated to the federal government by the states and not prohibited to the states in the Constitution are reserved to the states or to the people.” In fact, Article III, Section 2, of the Constitution gives Congress the power to strip the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, of jurisdiction over broad categories of cases.

Just as we reject empire abroad, we must reject it at home too. Why? Because the only way to dominate the world abroad —which doesn’t lead to human progress— is to have absolute power at home.

Three Branches of Government

The Founders knew that human beings would always seek power because power corrupts. As Immanuel Kant said, “The enjoyment of power inevitably corrupts the judgment of reason, and perverts its liberty.” Meaning that the Founders understood that the love of power can become so intoxicating that it overwhelms reason. This is why the Founders created three branches. So that each branch can check and balance each other. This won’t overwhelm reason as much.

As James Madison said, in Federalist Papers #51, “If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” And, as Roosevelt said:

Were it possible to find “master minds” so unselfish, so willing to decide unhesitatingly against their own personal interests or private prejudiced, men almost god-like in their ability to hold the scales of Justice with an even had, such a government might be to the interest of the country, but there are none such on our political horizon, and we cannot expect a complete reversal of all the teachings of history.

However, “angels” or “master minds” don’t govern men. Men govern men. This is why the Founders created three branches with not the exact same but equal amounts of power.

The reason for this wasn’t to divvy up the chores but to balance one branch against the other. This prevents the concentration of power in the hands of a single person or a small group. Meaning, three branches were created so that no single person could control the whole nation.

That’s why John Adams said, we are “a government of laws and not of men.” Thomas Paine said it more eloquently, “The law is king.” And, Former Justice Robert Jackson said, “If there is any big star in our constitutional constellation; it is that no official…can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matter of opinion.”

However, a single man can now bend the American Government to his will —as we’ll see below.

How Is Power Divided?

Laws are crafted in the legislative branch, i.e. Congress. So important and powerful is this branch’s duties that it was broken down further into two separate entities: the House and the Senate. Once a law passes, it’s executed by the Executive branch —hence the root word “execute”. Every law was also subjected to review by a Supreme Court. Their duty was to ensure that the principles embodied in the Constitution weren’t violated by any law.

So, what power does the executive, as in the president, have? The President has the power over defense, immigration, currency, tax, foreign relations and solving conflicts between states.

The Problem

Through a succession of laws and rulings, all three branches now routinely exercise power well beyond their respective powers and well beyond any limits defined in the Constitution. As Montesquieu, a famous philosopher of liberty, said, “There can be no liberty where the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person.” And as Madison said in Federalist #46, “The accumulation of all power, legislative, executive, and judiciary in the same hands…may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

In other words, Congress is supposed to be the enemy of the president. It’s supposed to stop the president. The Legislature’s role isn’t to cheer on the president, support the president or act as an adviser to the president. The legislature’s role is to represent the people’s ideas, opinions and wants against the ideas, opinions and wants of the Federal Government. As Machiavelli said, “The government [i.e Congress] can stand without the king’s friendship and interest.”

Our government has however turned into a corporate structure with the executive branch at the top, Congress below and the Supreme Court further below! Concentrating more power in fewer hands and suppressing diversity of opinion will lead, as history shows, to danger. In other words, a corporate structure in politics doesn’t just lead to a totalitarian state, it becomes a totalitarian state.

Former Associate Justice Feliz Frankforter said, “The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day. It does come however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the restriction that force is even the most disinterested assertion of authority.”

New Powers Given To The Current President Are Passed down

Remember, every new power no matter how light, given to the executive branch will be available to the next president. And, the new president may not use the power as kindly as the former.

In Conclusion

The light of liberty is dimming. The court is gone, Congress is weak, and the news is blind. Remember, as Ronald Regan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

Governments can only derive their authority by receiving consent from the governed. In other words, we give power to the government. However, we’re currently in the executive revolution, which means without the consent of the people. But, the president is a public servant, not a national leader.

In the end, I’d like to leave you with this quote by Herbert Sobel from the famed movie and book Band Of Brothers:

“We salute the rank, not the man.”

To your success,
Nikhil Mahadea