The U.S. Constitution

Learning Objectives

By the end of this chapter, you should be able to

• Describe early forms of American government, and explain how they formed the basis for the U.S. Constitution.

• Explain the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, and describe how these weaknesses helped lead to the Constitutional Convention.

• Describe the Constitutional Convention, and analyze the various proposals presented. • Analyze separation of powers and checks and balances. • Describe the debate between Federalists and Anti-Federalists over the inclusion of a bill of

rights in the U.S. Constitution.

On October 1, 2013, the U.S. government shut down. This meant that “non-essential” govern- ment services—parks and museums, certain regulatory agencies, and other services—were suspended while federal employees who performed non-essential services were instructed not to work. These services did not resume until October 17, 2013.

What normally causes a government shutdown is a failure between the president and Con- gress to agree on a budget. While the Constitution does not require a budget, the government cannot function without one. The budget is a legislative process like any other—majorities within each house of Congress must pass the same budget while the president must sign it for it to take effect. If no agreement is made, then the government cannot operate and is effectively shut down, normally in early October because Congress’s budget designations for a given fiscal year expire on September 30.

Because Congress has the “power of the purse,” many believe that the budget originates in Congress. However, for many years now the practice has been that the president collects bud- get estimates and requests from all the agencies and departments in the executive branch, puts them together, and then submits a budget proposal to Congress. Following much debate and many modifications, Congress then passes a budget, appropriating, or designating, what funds can be spent for a specific purpose. The budget then goes back to the president for his or her signature. In essence, when the president presents the proposed budget to Congress, the president signals to Congress that if the proposed budget is passed as presented it will not be vetoed and government will continue to function without interruption.

In 2013, the U.S. House of Representatives, dominated by Republicans, disagreed with the U.S. Senate, composed of a majority of Democrats, on an appropriations continuing resolution that would have kept the government running. House Republicans wanted to delay or defund the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (discussed in Chapter 1) in exchange for supporting a budget resolution. The Democratic-led Senate refused and passed several resolutions that would maintain current funding levels and spending cuts. Even if the Senate had agreed to House demands, President Barack Obama had threatened to veto any budget that delayed the PPACA. The Constitution requires that the president must either accept the budget as it is or reject the budget because the president may not veto any part of the budget. The president may not accept some parts of the budget and reject others. These fundamental disagreements caused the government to shut down until a budget resolution was passed.

Certainly, both sides pointed fingers blaming the other for the government shutdown— Republicans blamed Democrats, the House blamed the Senate, the Senate blamed the House, and the House blamed the president. In some respects, this was for good reason: The U.S. Con- stitution provides that both houses of Congress and the president cannot operate without the cooperation of the others. The Framers intended Congress to have the “power of the purse,” or control of the nation’s finances. The president can propose a budget, but he or she cannot spend public monies unless Congress has appropriated them. However, the appropriation of money cannot be final until the president signs it into law. If no agreement is made, then the government cannot operate and is effectively shut down.

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