The nature of the US Constitution

  • Created by: Eeh16
  • Created on: 22-04-22 15:28

Vagueness And Specificity

Implied powers are powers that the federal government has by inference but aren't explicitly mentioned in the Constitution.- this is one of the things that have a bit of vagueness to it. 

In the 10th Amendment, it is stated that unless the constitution specifically gives the federal government a particular power or prohibits the states from doing it, then that power should be reserved for the states or the people. These powers are called reserved powers

There are some powers that are concurrent, meaning they are held by the federal and state government at the same time. This causes vagueness and arguments about jurisdictions.

There are some parts that are very specific e.g Congress has the power 'to collect taxes' and 'to coin money.' 

In Article 1 Section 8, there is the Necessary and Proper Clause. States that Congress is empowered to make all laws proper and necessary to carry out the federal government's duties. This clause is very elastic and allows the powers of the federal government to be stretched. It particularly clashes with the 10th Amendment which outlines reserved powers. 

1 of 7

A Codified Constitution

This means that it is a systematic and authoritative collection of rules that are written in a single document

It sets out the rules for how American politics and government should work.

Contains a Supremacy Clause which states that the constitution is the supreme law of the land and takes precedent over any other laws.

The constitution delegates powers to the different parts of Government.

2 of 7


It is really hard to change.

In military terms, entrenchment suggests a strong defensive position from which you cannot be moved.

Essentially, this was achieved due to the amendment procedure which ensures the constitution is really hard to change. The constitution had 10 Amendments added to it early on, known as the Bill of Rights in 1789. The total now is only 27 (3 are from the end of the Civil War and 2 are bringing in then removing prohibition).

Over the last 2 centuries, not much has really changed in regards to the constitution. Some people believe this is a positive thing as they don't want to see the important things in the constitution being eroded, while others think the is a negative thing as it means we end up with archaic laws.

3 of 7

The Amendment Process

The amendment needs to be proposed by 2/3 of the Houses of Congress and then, ratified by 3/4 of State legislatures. This method has been used for 26 amendments. 

Another method that has been used once (for the 21st Amendment ending prohibition) requires still for the amendment to be proposed by 2/3 of the Houses of Congress but then ratified by 3/4 of the States and each state can have its own convention.

It is possible for an amendment to be passed by:

- having the legislatures of 2/3 of the States calling for a national convention and then, ratified by 3/4 of the State legislatures.

having the legislatures of 2/3 of the States calling for a national convention and then, ratified by ratifying conventions in 3/4 of the States  

4 of 7

Advantages of the Amendment Process

- The process means you need supermajorities in order to pass an amendment. This means the amendment needs overwhelming support so they don't pass things that are the whim of a small minority at a given moment in time.

- It is also a long and complicated process, preventing short-term flares of popularity for something being passed as amendments. e.g BREXIT wouldn't have happened due to only 52% voting for it.

- Both Federal and State governments must be in favor of the amendment. Again, this suggests it has a really broad base of support.

5 of 7

Disadvantages of the Amendment Process

- Overly difficult to change, meaning the bad, as well as the good, is entrenched. e.g the electoral college which is the odd system used to elect presidents that disproportionately represents the small states and the 2nd Amendment. 

- Minority can frustrate the will of the majority. More than a quarter of the states or the houses that don't like something it's not going to happen.

- Doesn't always stop short-term trends or movements. e.g Prohibition 

- Difficulty of amendments means the power of interpretation held by the unelected supreme court justices is excessive.

- Small states are overrepresented in the process. e.g Alaska's vote counts the same as California's. 

6 of 7

The Constitutional Framework (Powers) of the US Br

Checks and balances and separation of powers are key. Power isn't concentrated in the hands of one institution or individual but spread amongst the three branches. These branches enact checks and balances upon each other.

The President can check Congress by vetoing the bills they pass. check the power of SC by nominating new judges and can issue pardons e.g Trump pardoned Roger Stone.

Congress can check the power of the President by amending/delaying/rejecting their proposals, overriding their vetoes if they have a 2/3 majority in both houses. Can use the power of purse so withhold the budget. Irritate the President by not approving President appointments or his treaties. They can impeach the President e.g impeachment trials for Trump.

The Supreme Court can check the power of Congress by declaring laws to be unconstitutional. They can check presidents by ruling their actions to be unconstitutional. 

7 of 7


No comments have yet been made

Similar Government & Politics resources:

See all Government & Politics resources »See all US Constitution resources »