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Congressional Checks On Presidential Authority

This paper discusses the congressional checks on presidential authority and the reasons why the congress and the president’s conflict are inevitable.

Members of the congress determine whether the president’s case for military action is given free pass or widely contested in national media. The beltway reactions carry over to the media reactions and for weak adherents, adjoining branches of federal government set a critical tone for subsequent reporting. Congress exerts influence over the public debates involving the presidential use of force. The devote extensive coverage to their legislative  initiatives ,hearings, floor debates and public pronouncements on planned presidential uses of force and these actions shapes the case put before the Americans people for sending troops abroad. Congress is hardly the only political institution s that the president must contend with when planning for a military action. The military, courts and international institutions can take measures to affect the decision making on the use of force and at times the influence they wield intersects with congressional war powers.

Members of congress have sought injunctions that invoke the president’s power to oversee the military operations without formal congressional authorization and these decisions were overturned on appeal. In many occasions in the modern era the courts have repudiated a military action and demanded that the president bring the troops home. For instance, recent events during President Bush’s war on terror on 24th June 2004 the Supreme Court released three decisions concerning individual seen as enemy combatants and held in military custody. The cases of Rumsfeld verses Padilla and Hamdi verses Rumsfeld was about indefinite detention of Americans by virtue of their citizenship were not subject to military tribunals that Bush established to try foreign nationals suspected of committing or  planning to commit terror attacks against united states. The third case was Rasul verses Bush bore right of the federal government to hold indefinitely noncitizens at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Justice John Paul struck down the military provisions that lacked resource to civilian courts by ruling that the U.S District Court did have jurisdictional authority to hear petitions of habeas corpus since U.S exercises sovereignty over Guantanamo Bay. It allowed the detainees to legally challenge their detention but did not compel the administration to either try them or release them. In July 2006 the Supreme Court issued its most sweeping indictment of the president’s war on terror where Chief Justice Roberts in the appeal struck down in 3-5 ruling the president’s military tribunal system. Congress has denied the president the legislative authority to create military commissions of the kind the issue here. Breyer concluded that nothing prevents the presidents from returning to congress to seek the authority necessary. According to Justice Kennedy’s opinion, congress prescribed these limits on presidential power hence it can change them. The administration accepted this and worked with congress on drafting military tribunal legislation. On 16th 2006 congress enacted the Military commissions Act of 2006 that validates the use of military commissions to prosecute foreign terrorist suspect and clarifies interrogation techniques that CIA can use on the detainees.

Also, example is that President Bush spent months trying to woo Congress, the American public and the United Nations behind a military invasion toppled the Hussein regime and advance democracy in the region. From the administration’s vantage point was overwhelming and the need for action was clear. This resulted in a wide range of reactions in the halls of Congress to Bush’s initiative. Republicans came out in support thereby endorsing the president’s prerogative to define both the nature of the problem and the course of corrective action. In a speech on the Senate floor, John Ensign made the argument for action and the urgency of rallying behind the president, most forcefully that there is a time for all things, (William H and Jon P pg12-33)

Reasons why is conflict inevitable between Congress and President

The Constitution does not envision a master-servant relationship between the President and Congress. The framers of the document took cared for a system of government in which there is a balance of powers and extensive checks and balances between them. The President is entitled to recommend legislation, his agenda depends to a considerable degree on his skill of convincing members of Congress to follow his lead as he cannot dictate Congress what he wants. He faces a huge task in communicating with Congress because of its size and diversity. One of the instruments of persuasion is the presidential veto.  With an overtly combative stance, a President can bend Congress to his will. Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt for example devised the model of the expansive, activist modern presidency. He set the national agenda and had behind him the vast knowledge and expertise of the federal bureaucracy. In the media-driven age, he spoke with one voice, as against the many of Congress, making it easier for him to command the attention of the cameras. . (Lee H pg1)

The relationship between Congress and the President lies at the core of our system of government since under the Constitution, tension and struggle between these rivals for power is inevitable. The framers did not set out to promote gridlock between President and Congress even if they did intend that conflicting opinions in society, it should be considered carefully before government takes action. It is a dynamic relationship, changing with every issue, every event. Sometimes it is cordial and cooperative while at times it is hostile and polarized. Congresses and Presidents find a way to work with each other, cooperating where possible and the nation's business gets done smoothly. The relationship between President and Congress tumultuous as it is, safeguards the people from corruption of power and abuse of authority by either side. (Lee H pg1)









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