Today’s lesson on the U.S. Constitution focuses on Article I, Section 7  which explains in the barest details of how a law is passed by Congress and the President.

All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

All bills for raising taxes MUST start in the House of Representatives.  The reason behind this methodology was because representatives were voted on by the general electorate.  If the representatives vote to raise taxes the people can vote them out of office in the next election.

Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States

With that statement the entire law making process is explained by the Constitution.  A bill must be passed by both the House and the Senate and must be presented to a President. All the other steps I teach in my classes are a result of previous provisions in the U.S. Constitution.  Specifically, Article I, Section 5 Clause 2, which states:  “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings…”  Each house outlines the procedures for how their house is to pass a bill .  This is where the filibuster and cloture rules from the Senate and the Rules committee in the House were created.

If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it.

This phrase describes the check of power the President has on the Congress’s law making power.  The President being the chief law enforcer has final approval of all laws.  Considering that he also has an oath to uphold the Constitution, as the Supreme Law of the land, he then is the first check on protecting the Constitution against unlawful changes through legislation.  There are numbers of Presidents who vetoed lots of legislation the most prevalent are Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson and my personal favorite, Grover Cleveland.  He was known to veto many private bills that came through Congress to give some person tax payer dollars.  Here is a key example I want to share with you readers which comes from Glenn Beck’s, “Arguing with Idiots (6-7).

“In 1887, Congress passed a bill appropriating money to Texas farmers who were suffering through a catastrophic drought.  These days, that funding would not only be authorized, it would probably be done so under an emergency program that gave more money to the farmers than they ever dreamed of.  But not in 1887.  Not with Grover Cleveland as President.  Here is how he responded:  I feel obligated to withhold my approval of the plan, as proposed by this bill, to indulge a benevolent and charitable sentiment through the appropriation of public funds for that purpose. I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government out to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit.  A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that thought the people support the government the government should not support the people.  That friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune.  This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated.  Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of common brotherhood.” (Note to self:  Need to find books and read more about Grover Cleveland, a pure constitutionalists, a politician after my own heart)

The President may either sign the bill showing his approval of the law, or he may veto it to show his disapproval.  The Constitution does indicate that the President must tell why he vetoed the law, which will be entered into the journal of the house in which the bill originated.  They can then reconsider the bill which means one of two things.  First, that they rewrite the law and re-pass it according to the President’s objections and sending it to him for his final approval.  Or they may…

If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively.

Both houses of Congress must pass the vetoed bill again by a two-thirds margin.  This congressional override is a check on the power of the President to veto legislation.  But it does require what is known typically as a super majority.  In the House it requires 287 members to vote in favor of the bill; in the Senate it requires 67.  Therefore a bill must be extremely popular to be overridden.  Only about 4% of all Presidential vetoes have been overridden.  A very effective check on over legislating by the Congress.

Also another key limitation on this clause is that the Congress MUST record in its journal who which member voted Yea and Nay.  This is so the people may know precisely who voted for and against the bill.

If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.

This provision in the Constitution provides a check on the President’s power to approve or disapprove of a law by including a time limit for his actions on any given bill.  If the president could just ignore bills by Congress then he would have an uncontrolled amount of power over the legislative process.  The time limit of ten days also makes sure the president has time to review the legislation before signing or vetoing a law.  He cannot just ignore laws presented to him by Congress.

I would argue the bills passed by Congress in our modern era are to long to be reviewed by the President. Bills that are hundreds, if not thousands, of pages in length are too long for the President to properly review them prior to his approval.  Also the president receives hundreds, if not not thousands, of bills each year to approve.  That is his key job, review the legislation and approve it if it is Constitutional.  The extreme length and number of bills passed by Congress has hindered the President from doing this key job.  It is time to enact reform so that our bills are easy to read and understand for all people of our nation.  But that is a longer discussion for a different day.

Every Order, Resolution, or Vote to which the Concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of Adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the Same shall take Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

This final clause states that the President’s approval must be given on ANY bill that is passed by both house of Congress.  The only exception to this clause is when they vote to adjourn.  If the President had the power to adjourn the Congress indefinitely it would give that office a huge amount of power  over the legislative process.  Though he does has some limited power to adjourn and call Congress to session, but we will discuss more of that when we get to Article II.

I hope you enjoyed the lesson for today.  As always feel free to comment or question.  Class dismissed.