You are on page 1of 5

Audrey Yoder

POLS 220

Prof. Moraguez

When establishing the three branches of government, it was the framers intention to

create a system of three equal powers that would rely on checks and balances to prevent one side

from gaining too much power. However, it can be argued that in fact the branches are less equal

than they were originally intended to be, and that the powers of Congress outweigh the other

two. This is not to say that the executive and judicial branches are weak, as they have their own

methods to pass legislation, but rather that Congress has a much greater ability to enact new

policies and more say in where the country as a whole is headed.

To start with, Congress is the main law-making body of the government and has the

power of the purse unlike the other branches. The ability to create and pass bills into becoming

laws is Congresss most important power followed by what is stated in Article 1 section 7 of The

Constitution, All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives. This

solely only allows congress to tax. Congress can also set budgets and hand out entitlements,

which gives certain eligible groups benefits such as Social Security. Also as stated at the end of

Article 1 Section 8 of The Constitution, Congress has the ability to,make all laws which shall be

necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers

vested by the Constitution in the Government of the United States or in any Department thereof,

this power is often referred to as the necessary and proper clause, which stretches Congresss

powers. Among many things, the powers given to Congress from this article also put it in charge

of conducting foreign affairs.


Only Congress is given the ability to declare war, and to create treaties with foreign

powers. Along with this if war is declared, only Congress has the ability to raise and maintain

armies, due to it having financial control and the powers granted to it in The Constitution.

Perhaps most notable, is the Commerce Clause placed in The Constitution which established that

Congress had the right toregulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states,

and with the Indian tribes. This clause was first put to the test 1824 in Gibbons Vs. Ogden,

which involved two ferryman attempting to block Ogden from operating on their same route.

John Marshall rejected the attempt to keep out Ogden because it was in his rights to conduct

business between state lines (The Powers of Congress). But overall the clause establishes that

Congress has full authority over commerce occurring between states and includes bodies of

water between them as well.

Perhaps most importantly, congress is responsible for checking the powers of the

executive branch. Congress is given the right to approve or disapprove the Presidents

nomination when appointing a new ambassador. At times, it seems that the executive branch is

more powerful or equal to congress since the president is allowed to veto a bill he may disagree

with. But this is only in the correct circumstances, where the house majority is in the same party

as the serving president and holds the same stances that they do on a bill. Even vetoes can be

overridden by congress if two thirds of the House of Representatives and the Senate vote against

it. Successfully overriding vetoes is not an easy task, but for example, president Ford had 12 of

his 66 vetoes overridden after he replaced Nixon (Fox News). Another example was back in

2008 when George W. Bush tried to veto the Medicare Improvement Bill, the House and the

Senate halted his attempt by a vast majority, exceeding the two thirds of votes needed (CNN).
Overriding vetoes is much easier for Congress to accomplish during a weak presidency however

(Fox News).

The Constitution grants Congress with the power to impeach the president, and kick them

out of office if found guilty of high crimes. In doing so Congress is able to counter the executive

branch if it has been found corrupt. Although no presidents have been removed from office,

Nixon resigned from office before Congress had a chance to convict him (The New York

Times). The whole impeachment and investigation process falls underneath Congressional

oversight along with all of the other powers granted to Congress mentioned earlier.

Congressional oversight also grants Congress the ability to requests reports from the president,

and meetings with legislators.

Congresss assistance in the investigation currently being conducted by the attorney

general Jeff Sessions, and Robert Mueller in regards to President Trumps potential ties with

Russia is another excellent example of how Congress has the potential to reign in the president.

Although the investigations are being done by The Justice Department which falls under the

executive branch, Congress schedules the hearings and interviews those that may be involved in

the case. Most importantly, unlike the special counsel, if incriminating charges are found and

pressed by the Justice Department, it can only be Congress that initiates the impeachment

process. On the flip side, Congress cannot convict people like a special counsel can, and its

findings when assisting the investigation are much more open to the public unlike the findings of

The Justice Department. ( Los Angeles Times)

Although most of the checking powers granted to Congress are aimed to prevent the

executive branch from overextending itself, it also checks on the judicial branch. Since the

president can nominate a justice, it is up to the Senate to either approve or deny the candidate for
the position. This allows congress to have a say in how many justices are on the Supreme Court

at one time. In fact, many Americans tend to trust the Judicial branch more than the others

because its inability to raise money or use force. Due to its dependence on the legislative and

executive branch it's often times suggested to be the weakest of the three. On occasion,

presidents have even ignored the Supreme Court's rulings altogether. In the case of Worcester

Vs. Georgia in 1832, the supreme court had deemed it unconstitutional for the state to take

Cherokee lands that been found to be ripe with gold. President Jackson however, decided to

ignore the ruling and stated John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it."(PBS)

Without the ability to use force, the Judicial branch was powerless without support from either

Congress or the executive branch.

Times have changed and power dynamics in the government naturally have shifted in the

process but Congress nonetheless still remains the most influential branch and with good reason.

Without the checks and balances provided by Congress, the president would likely hold an

excessive amount of power for one individual, leading to abuse of the system. Since Congress

consists of hundreds of individually elected officials, it is hoped that the powers granted to them

by The Constitution are used effectively. Since the Supreme Court only consists of a handful of

judges appointed by the president and the Senate rather than being democratically elected, it is

perhaps better that the justice system is not as powerful as the other two branches.

Works Cited

"A Guide to Every Russia Investigation Happening Right Now." Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles

Times, n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2017


"Congress Rejects Veto of Bill to Halt Medicare Payment Cuts." CNN. Cable News Network, n.d.

Web. 07 Nov. 2017.

Linder, Doug. "The Reach of Congressional Power: Specific Article I and IV Powers." The

Powers of Congress. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2017.

"Rare, but Hardly Unprecedented: History of Veto Overrides." Fox News. FOX News Network,

n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2017

Rosen, Jeffrey. "Court History." PBS. Public Broadcasting Service, n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2017.

Savage, Charlie. "How the Impeachment Process Works." The New York Times. The New York

Times, 17 May 2017. Web. 07 Nov. 2017.