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Presidential Authority (Executive Authority) Is Always Outranked By Duly-Enacted Laws Passed By Congress

By Rev. Bill McGinnis  Posted by Rob Kall (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   No comments
The issue of Presidential Authority vs. Congressional Authority, under our Constitution, has moved to the forefront of Public discussion, now that it has been revealed that President Bush has falsely claimed, essentially, that Article II gives the President absolute Constitutional authority to do anything he wants to do in the area of National Defense, even in direct opposition to duly-enacted laws passed by Congress.

Perhaps the clearest, most dangerous, recent example of this false claim is shown in his Presidential Statement of Dec. 30, 2005, paragraph 6, where he outrageously declares, "The executive branch shall construe section 8104, relating to integration of foreign intelligence information, in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority as Commander in Chief, including for the conduct of intelligence operations, and to supervise the unitary executive branch. Also, the executive branch shall construe sections 8106 and 8119 of the Act, which purport to prohibit the President from altering command and control relationships within the Armed Forces, as advisory, as any other construction would be inconsistent with the constitutional grant to the President of the authority of Commander in Chief." Source:
(Public Domain)

In other words, Congress can go fly a kite as far as trying to control him in matters of National Defense, because he can "construe" the laws anyway he chooses, even construe them as null and void. And he even violates the Constitution, literally, when he denies that Congress has the authority to alter the "command and control relationships within the Armed Forces." The Constitution specifically gives these powers to Congress, not to the President, when it says, "The Congress shall have Power . . . To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;" (See Article I, Section 8.)

This question of Presidential Authority vs. Congressional Authority is the essential issue which underlies the present furor in the news about "spying on American citizens without a Court Order" and " the President's duty to defend the Country," and "Presidential Authority," and "Executive Authority," and " powers of the President in time of war, and "the powers of the Commander In Chief."

Please note that the President is not "Commander In Chief" of the Country, or of the Congress, or of the Judiciary, or even technically of all the Military, because the National Guard is under State authority until such time as it is called into Federal service. (See Article II. Section 2.)

Here are the exact words of the Constitution on these matters:

Congress Makes The Laws: "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." (See Article I, Section 1.) Yes, the President can veto any Law he does not accept, but Congress can over-ride a veto with a two-thirds vote in both Houses of Congress. Thus Congress can enact laws against the will of the President.

The President Administers The Laws That Congress Makes: "The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America."
(See Article II, Section 1.) And the President is required to execute the laws faithfully, whether he agrees with them or not. Article II, Section 3 says, " . . . he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed . .
." So the President does not get to pick and choose which laws he will administer and which ones he will not administer. He is required by the Constitution to administer faithfully each and every Law enacted by Congress.

If he fails in this obligation, Congress can remove him from office.
Article II, Section 4 says, "The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors." (Failure to execute the laws would be a high misdemeanor.) The House Of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment: "The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment." (See Article I, Section 2.) And the Senate has the sole power to try these Impeachments. "The Senate shall have the sole Power to try all Impeachments. (See Article I. Section 3.)

Furthermore, there is no limit on the degree to which Congress can direct the activities of the President, if it chooses to do so by a duly-enacted law. Yes, the President does have some implied powers, necessary to do his job, but these are immediately over-ridden if Congress exercises its authority to enact a Law on the subject.

As Commander In Chief, the President is responsible for the day-to-day administration of the military, including the responsibility for taking quick action in the event of time-sensitive emergencies. Article II, Section 2 says, "The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;" But quick action for emergencies is quite different from setting long-term military policies.

Some people believe that the President magically acquires new policy-making powers in his role as Commander In Chief. There is no Constitutional basis for this belief. In fact, the Constitution specifically says that Congress, not the President, has the authority to establish all the rules for the "government and regulation" of the military. "The Congress shall have Power . . . To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;" (See Article I, Section 8.) This affirms that Congress can exert detailed control over all aspects of the military, to whatever degree Congress chooses to exert it.
The President's authority as Commander In Chief is only as great as Congress is willing to delegate to him. At any time, Congress could pass a Law stripping the President of whatever authority he thinks he has over the military. The Constitution certainly does not provide the President with some kind of Personal Military, to control as he wishes. No. As in all other cases, the President acts as the agent and instrument of Congress, faithfully executing the Laws enacted by Congress, and subject to removal if he fails to perform this job.

Note: For all references to the United States Constitution, I have used the official version available through the Government Printing Office at

So please keep all these things in mind, as George W. Bush and his misguided Administration attempt to justify their outrageous, disastrous conduct by falsely claiming a Constitutional authority they simply do not have,

Blessings to you.

May God help us all.

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Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect, connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media. 

Check out his platform at

He is the author of The Bottom-up Revolution; Mastering the Emerging World of Connectivity

He's given talks and workshops to Fortune 500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful people on his Bottom Up Radio Show, and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and opinion sites,

more detailed bio: 

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet (more...)

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