On May 29, 1790 when US Constitution was accepted by the last of the 13 original the states, the US was still a single party state, not very different in some ways from Mao’s China or Lenin’s Russia.  Madison, who drafted much the document, did not consider the consequences of a multiple party system and the new President, Washington, firmly opposed what he called factions in government.  It was Jefferson who later created our first party, the ancestors of today’s Democratic Party.  Jefferson was opposed to single party government run by an all-powerful president. Yet, when he became President, Jefferson used his unwritten powers to make the Louisiana Purchase.

Thanks to Madison, Congress itself has the power to redefine the role of the President. Now is the time to do that.

The modern Presidency, with its King-like powers to make war, negotiate foreign agreements, or levy taxes was never the intent of the founders.  Washington rejected any regal title, settling for Mr. President. The Federalist papers clearly limited Mr. President to the role of head of state with most of the power in the hands of the Congress and the states. The writers of that document, especially Madison, even claimed that no US President should have the power to make war.  Jefferson and his Virginian successors believed we should never have a domestic army.

The founders also did not envisage the muti-party system.  Washington was more or less the head of a single party state.  The Federalists party passed laws through the Congress.  The Federalist party, like the Communist Party of China, made laws by decisions of its leaders, headed originally by Washington.

Washington rejected any regal title, settling for Mr. President.

Changes in the idea of the President as the head of a one party government came about rapidly.  Jefferson was opposed to single-party government run by an all-powerful president.  He created the Republican-Democrats and that party defeated the Federalists.

Nonetheless, when he became President, Jefferson used his unwritten powers to make the Louisiana Purchase without going to Congress. The first Democrat needed to act quickly given the time required to get the deal done with the French who were then a month away across an ocean.

Without recording the history of the next 200 years, the following Presidents have grossly violated the Constitution.  Jackson sent Federal troops into the South, Polk made war in Mexico, Lincoln ran roughshod over the Constitution in his fight with South.  Since Korea, the US has undertaken several wars, usually without an act of war by the Congress. And now we have Trump.

Impeachment is an answer to Trump but Americans have never actually removed a President by conviction in Congress.  At best we have an unwritten set of laws that vaguely and, as Trump proves, poorly limit the office of Mr. President.  There is also no need for a Constitutional amendment.  Thanks to Madison, Congress itself has the power to redefine the role of the President. Now is the time to do so.

The candidates for the nomination by Jefferson’s party, that is, the Democratic Party,  should all agree to endorse a Presidential Powers Act.  The PPA should address the scope of unconstitutional powers so brilliantly illustrated by Trump:

I War Powers  We do have a war powers act but it needs to be rewritten so that it has actual consequences short of the need to impeach. No US President should be able to make war without approval by both houses of Congress.

II  Treaty Powers  Treaties have no meaning if a President can unilaterally make and break promises to other countries.   Once confirmed by the Senate, a treaty should become US law and should only be overturned by a majority vote of both houses of Congress.

III.  Judicial Appointments  The fact that these are life long means we need a more onerous process for confirmation and that nomination needs itself to be more a prerogative of the Congress than the President.  The House should take the power of nomination, the Senate should require a 2/3 vote for confirmation with the President having the power to accept a nomination or refer it back to the Senate for a second vote.

IV. Presidential Qualifications

1. Anyone seeking the Presidency must make full disclosure of her or his IRS records and health records.
2. The emoluments clause should be reinforced to require that no business owned by a President can be paid by a foreign government.

V  Presidential Appointments.

  1. Presidential appointments should be restricted by laws that prohibit nepotism including business partners as well as family.
  2. All presidential appointees should be required to do a full financial disclosure including  IRS records.

VI  The Vice President

  1. All rules governing the President should also apply  to the Vice President
  2. To strengthen the role of the Vice President, she or he should become the chair of the cabinet and act as Secretary of Management.

VII  The Cabinet.  The position of Cabinet Secretary should be redefined to assure that the Cabinet is an effective body comprised of people who can, along with the President and the Vice President, make policy.  To accomplish this, we need fewer cabinet posts.  Departments with primarily administrative functions .. e.g. the Post Office, Veterans Affairs, Interior, Housing and Agriculture should be moved out of the cabinet while new positions are created for key advisory needs in the environment, economy, science, and management.  The Departments with management functions would be overseen by a very small office of management overseen by the Vice President who would also hold the title of  Secretary of Management.

VIII  Investigator General  Trump’s ability to obstruct justice illustrates the need to separate parts of the Department of Justice from the office of the Presidency.   Congress should create the position of the Investigator General.  The appointment of an IG would follow the same rules as those described above for justices. The Office of the IG (OIG) could initiate investigations on its own authority or at the request of any of the three branches of government.  The OIG would also have the ability to convene a grand jury and bring charges in a Federal Court.




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  1. Mark Adams #

    This is all a nice pipe dream. Maybe some small portion of this could get done without a Constitutional amendment. Much of it would require just that. No Congress of the last 60 years would have even tried any of the more modest measures, and most Presidents would have used their veto power. The current Congress is unlikely to do so. It is very unlikely the Congress voted for in 2020 will do any of this and no candidate for office is likely to even bring up the proposals.
    You may as well call for a Constitutional Convention as that just takes the various states to do. Of course the states may have some other ideas on what needs to be changed, and what Constitutional Amendments need to be brought up or even a new Constitution.
    Unfortunately Congress it self and the members of Congress do not really want all the power the Constitution gives them. One need go no further than the full Constitutional requirements of doing a census every 10 years and that additional House members should be made once the census is done. Congress could not do that back in 1910 and all the way to 1920 and in a boneheaded unconstitutional fashion decided to freeze the number of members of the House, possible one reason we have President Trump today. Congress can easily fix that, but it will not and that is why your proposals are just hot air and pipe dreams.

  2. Mark Adams #

    And it is not Jefferson who creates the Democratic party. Andrew JAckson takes over Jefferson’s party and creates the modern populist Democratic party.

  3. theaveeditor #

    We read history differently. Until Jefferson, there was only one party. Washington, Hamilton, and Adams all were as opposed to the creation of an opposition party as were Mao and Deng.

    The NAME of Jefferson’s party is debated. It is often called the Republican Party but the Republican party we know today is descendant of the part of Fremont. That party was created in opposition to the southern Democrats … i.e. the faction of the Democratic party that traced itself to Jackson. The Republicans were in most ways like Adams. Washington, and Hamilton .. except for the slavery issue. Antislavery Whigs voted Republican.

  4. theaveeditor #

    I am pretty sure you are wrong. I wrote these proposals to avoid anything that is constitutional. Can you give me an example?
    Also, there is no issue of a veto either. I am posting that these become part of the Democratic plan for being elected. If a Dem wins and the Congress turns .. that is all that would be needed.

    Finally, it seems to me that these proposals would appeal to Republicans as well.