The Constitutional Powers of the Congress

From need to preserve individual liberty and to control the power of the government, two other strong institutions were constitutionally established to balance the leadership power of the government. These two bodies are the Senate and the Congress. This is clearly articulated by Ginsberg, Lowi, Weir, Tolbert & Spitzer (2012) in documenting that among all other roles of the government, this institution is meant to protect the benefits of individual liberty for the American nationals (27). Thus, the Constitution states how this major objective is to be achieved by the Federal Government and one initiative spelled out is the division of the leadership powers among the three institutions. This initiative is noted to have formed the best form of government leadership ever since the creation and implementation of this Constitution and has lasted for over three centuries now (28). The Founders of this Constitution appreciated the fact that leadership power can be very dangerous and thus, any leading institution should have limited power in order to secure the liberty of those being led. This liberty is one which also gives people the right to remove any form of government that they find to be unjust to them. The Founders are noted acknowledging that the power of the government can only be balanced or limited by another leadership power that would work against any unjust acts of the government. Hence, on this basis, the general functions of the government are said to have been used as a point of reference in defining the roles of these three governing institutions in America which are stated in the 1787 Constitution (29).

Relating the knowledge gained in the previous section of this paper with the unjust British colonial rule, it is well understood how the First Congress was formed in America. This Congress made up of representatives of all colonies came together and joined their efforts to frustrate the British rule and establish ways to gain their country’s independence. This determination eventually led to the Declaration of the country’s independence. The Second Congress formed a year later in 1776 is said to have drafted and adopted the Declaration of America’s independence from the rule of the British. This document is one that is said to have projected the rights of human beings which included liberty rights, rights to life, and the rights to pursue happiness. It is suggested that this formulation was very detailed covering what governments would not have considered including. That is, during the mid 1770s, the American world was comprised of colonies led by kings but the Congress worked on how to unify these colonies through the Declaration in addition to breaking away from the British rule (Ginsberg, et al. 2012: 32). Thus, when the colonies were united and the country got its independence from the British rule, a common government was now required. The Congress in 1777 is noted to have adopted the Constitution that was first written referred to as the “Article of Confederation”. This Constitution though not fully accepted by all the colonies, it was observed for close to 12years when the new Constitution was formed. This modification or establishment is noted to have been caused by several weaknesses the old Constitution had and were: (a) the Congress had less power (b) the common government had more power and there was need to limit this power. The new Constitution is mentioned to have given the Congress power to ensure there is peace in the country, to call for war, to agreements and alliances between governments, to control trade, and to borrow funds (33-34).


In summary, it can be said that constitutionally, the powers given to the Congress first of all is to limit the powers of the central government. This central government is one that the Congress oversees as an alliance of all other American states. The other power of the Congress is one that it developed from its efforts to frustrate the British rule especially in the unjust trade practices that it had established for Americans and to determine ways on how to overthrow the British power in their land. That is, to declare war against any power that is against the values and beliefs of the Americans, to make peace in the country by promoting national unity, and thereafter, to oversee trade practices that the country is engaged in both locally and internationally. This in other words is to say that from the central government’s perspective, the government is formed under the guidance of the Congress and its functions are closely monitored by the Congress for the sake of promoting peace in the country which is achieved through just leadership. It also means that the Congress can withdraw the central government should it exhibit unjust leadership. Another role of the Congress that has been conveyed is to develop the Constitution and to make amendments.

How the 20th Century Presidents were Able to Use Institutional and Political Resources to Challenge Congressional Dominance of U.S. National Politics

Ginsberg, et al. (2012) inform that constitutionally, the President who is elected by the people is also protected from the pressure coming from the public and the other two powerful institutions especially the Congress. This effort is found to have provided more room to increase the power accorded to the central government. What increased include: (a) negotiation of treaties though under the approval of the Senate (b) receiving foreign ambassadors that enables the president to recognize other nations (c) the ability to convene the Congress when needed to (d) the power to make appointments in major governmental departments, (e) the power to stop the enactments made by the Congress though the decision can be overridden by the Congress by a majority of votes. The constitutional increase of presidential powers is noted to have led to various amendments in the new Constitution including Federalism and the Bill of Rights (43-44). But regardless of these constitutional developments, Ginsberg, et al. (2012) point out the major goal of establishing the Congress and the Senate, that is limiting the powers of the central government is only a wordy notion but it is not practiced in the actual sense. Presently, each of these three leadership powers is given some degree of power over the other. This is seen by the President’s power to stop enactments made by the Congress. The new system of Federalism that has been accepted constitutionally is noted to have boosted the power of the president through the need to centralize the power of the states to the national government. This opportunity is noted to have been created out of the need to balance the power between the states’ government and the central government (45-46).


What has been drawn from this section is that various political developments and weaknesses of implementing the major contents of the new Constitution provided an opportunity to the 20th century presidents to use their increasing governmental powers to challenge certain powers of the Congress over them. Such political developments have been seen to include the introduction of Federalism, and the major weakness of actually dividing the powers of the supreme governing powers.

The Likelihood of the Future Balance of Powers between the Congress and the Presidents Based on the Evidence Presented in the Two Previous Sections

This can be established from the concept that has been drawn from the evidence presented. This concept is one that has been maintained by the formation and development of the functions of the Congress. That is, through the creation of the Declaration of Independence, for the sake of peace, protection of individual liberty, and pursuance of happiness from the colonial period and one that has continued to govern the country constitutionally. This notion is one that has driven its functions even to mainly ensure that the government does not become dangerously powerful. This notion has continually been employed by the Congress even when new political challenges are faced by other states. This for instance is seen with the introduction and management of the Federalism system in the country. That is, under this system, each state is allowed to make its own decisions and laws individually. In response to this constitutional development, the Congress is noted to have opted to use this opportunity to balance the powers of the national government and the states by centralizing this Federalism power. But this option is found to have increased more power of the president (national government). Another significant point that can be used to draw an answer to this section is that the implementation of the new Constitution has not been implemented to the letter. First and foremost, is the limitation of the central government’s power by the Congress and the Senate which has been weakened by the overlapping constitutional powers given to the three branches of government. For instance is the power the central government has to stop congressional enactments. These two points strongly convey that the Congress will continue making decisions in regards to controlling the powers of the president which are directed towards limiting these powers. But on the other hand, more political developments arising from various political challenges realized in the country will continue increasing the power of the president (central government).  


Ginsberg, B., Lowi, T. J., Weir, M., Tolbert, C. J. & Spitzer, R. J. (2012). We the People- An Introduction to American Politics.

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