The US Constitution

  • Created by: dbrennan
  • Created on: 10-06-19 20:40
What are the 3 features of the US Constitution?
Codified, a blend of specificity and vagueness, entrenched provisions
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What is the supremacy clause>
Article of the Constitution that states the Constitution, as well as federal laws and treaties shall be the 'supreme law of the land'.
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What are enumerated powers/delegated powers?
Powers delegated to the federal government under the Constitution.
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What is the significance of enumerated powers?
Federal government does not possess unlimited power but only such power as it is given in the Constitution.
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What are implied powers?
Powers that are possessed by the federal government by inference from those powers delegated to it.
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What is an example of implied powers?
Congressional power to draft people into the armed forces: implied powers from the delegated power to raise an army an navy.
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What is an example of implied powers?
Delegated, congressional power to'provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States': Congress had the implied powers of levying and collecting taxes to provide for the defence of the US.
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What is the Necessary and Proper Clause
Final clause of Article 1, Section 8: empowers Congress to make all laws 'necessary and proper' to carry out the federal government's duties.
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What is the elastic clause?
Reference to the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution.
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What power does the elastic clause give the US government?
Powers of federal government are stretched beyond the specifically delegated/enumerated powers it is given.
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What are reserved powers?
Powers not delegated to the federal government, prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states and to the people.
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What is the significance of reserved powers?
Limits the power of the federal government by stating that all the powers not delegated to the federal government, or prohibited to the States, are 'reserved to the States, or to the people'.
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What are concurrent powers?
Powers possessed by both federal and state governments.
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What is an example of concurrent powers?
Building roads, collecting taxes, maintaining the courts (similar to the power of UK local governments).
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What is the significance of the the supremacy clause?
Any legitimate national law automatically supersedes any conflicting state law.
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What is entrenchment?
The application of extra legal safeguards to a constitutional provision to make it more difficult to amend or abolish it.
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How is the US Constitution outdated?
Entrenchment: during WW1 entrenchment was the establishment of military forces in trenches or other fortified positions to protect against enemy attack. Governmental/political provisions were therefore protected against those who wanted to change it.
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What is an example of the US Constitution being entrenched?
Complicated system, super-majorities for the amendment process in order to ensure special protection.
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How does the amendment process work?
Two-stage process(stage 1: proposal stage & stage 2: ratification stage), requires super-majorities of more than 50%, two-thirds or a three-quaters majority.
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Who can propose a constitutional amendment?
Congress or by a national constitutional convention called by Congress at the request of two-thirds of the state legislatures.
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Examples of constitutional amendment proposals under Clinton (1993-2001)
17 votes on proposed constitutional amendments, all votes occured during the 6-year period that the Republicans controlled both house of Congress.
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Examples of failed constitutional amendments
1995: Balanced Budget, 1995,1997 and 1999: flag desecration amendment- Senate did not agree to either.
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Examples of constitutional amendment proposals under W.Bush (2001-2009)
6 votes on proposed constitutional amendments, only 3 of these six votes (The flag desecration) received the required two-thirds majority.
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What does the flag desecration show about the amendment process?
The House has voted on this amendment six times since 1995, Democrats took control over both houses of Congress in 2006 meaning that the passage of the amendment became much less likely.
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What are the advantages of the Amendment process?
Super-majorities ensure against tryanny of the minority, the lengthy and complicated process makes it harder for the constitution to be amended on a temporary issue, ensures federal & state govs must favour a proposal....
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What are the advantages of the Amendment process?
Gives a magnified voice to smaller-population states (Senate: three-quaters of the state legislatures), provision for a constitutional convention called by the states ensures against a veto being operated by Congress.
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What are the disadvantages of the Amendment process?
Constitution is difficult to amend (allowing outdated provisions: like the Electoral College), makes the will of the majority thwarted by a small, possibly unrepresentative minority, allowed Prohibition amendment to be passed (1918).
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What are the disadvantages of the Amendment process?
The difficulty of the amendment process enhances the power of the unelected Supreme Court to make interpretative amendments, the voice of small-population states is over-represented.
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What was the reasoning behind the Bill of Rights?
To protect Americans against an over-powerful federal government.
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Why has the Constitution been amended so rarely?
The FFs made it a difficult process, created a constitution that is vague in parts (allowed the document to evolve without the need of a formal amendment), SC's power of judicial review (judges can change the meaning of the Constitution).
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Why has the Constitution been amended so rarely?
The Supreme Court's power of judicial review means that 'interpretive amendments' rather than 'formal amendments' are triggered, Americans are cautious of tampering with their Constitution after the Prohibition amendment (repealed 14 years later).
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What are checks and balances?
A system of government that gives each branch the means to partially control the power exercised by other branches.
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What is the President's power of checks?
President can check Congress by vetoing a bill it has passed, President can check the federal courts by nominating judges and by the power of the pardon.
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What is Congress's power of checks on the President?
Amending/delaying/rejecting the president's legislative proposals, overriding the president's veto, the power of the purse, Senate can refuse to approve the President's appointments...
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What is Congress's power of checks on the President?
Senate can refuse to ratify the President's treaties, can use the impeachment and trial powers to remove the President from Office.
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What is Congress's power of checks on the federal courts?
Can propose constitutional amendments to overturn a judicial decision, Senate can refuse to approve a person nominated to the federal courts.
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What is Federal Court's power on Congress?
Can check Congress by declaring a law unconstitutional.
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What is the Federal Court's power on the President?
Can check the president by declaring the president's actions or presidential subordinates as unconstitutional.
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What is the State of Union Address?
An annual speech made by the President to a joint session of Congress, setting out his legislative programme for the coming year.
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Example of the Presidential veto in use
Obama used the regular veto on 12 occassions during his 8 year term in office: one was a veto of a bill that would have undermined parts of his healthcare reform legislation in 2016.
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Example of the presidential power of the pardon
Clinton pardoned 140 people on his last day in Office, including his predecessor (Nixon) for any crimes he had committed in the Watergate affair. Obama pardoned 142 people during his final 3 weeks in office.
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Example of presidential power of nomination
Obama appointed Sonia Sotomayor (2009) and Elena Kagan (2010): to match his own judicial philosophies.
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Example of congressional power of blocking/rejecting/amending legislation
2010: Congress blocked Obama's immigration reform and rejected every proposal he made about gun control legislation.
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Example of congressional power of overriding the presidential veto
During W.Bushes two terms in office, Congress overrode 4 of his 11 regular vetos (2007 Water Resources Development Bill, 2008 Food Conservation and Energy Bill).
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Example of congressional power of the power of the purse
2007: Democrat-controlled Congress attempted to limit Bush's spending on military operations in Iraq. 2019: Trump government shutdown on appropriations bill could not agree over the Border Wall, cost the US economy $11 billion.
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What is bipartisanship?
Close cooperation between the two major parties to achieve desired political goals. The US system: crucial for political success.
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Example of bipartisanship
President George.W.Bush was successful in his education reforms because he worked closely with congressional Democrats like Senator Edward Kennedy.
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Example of divided government
Democrats (2009-11 under Obama)
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Does divided government make checks and balances between Congress and the president more effective?
Bills are scrutinised more closely, treaties are checked more carefully, nominees are questioned more in the confirmation process
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Does divided government make checks and balances between Congress and the president less effective?
When Congress and the President are not of the same party, legislation, nominations, budgets, treaties are 'nodded' through without enough careful scrutiny.
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Does the US Constitution still work? (YES)
Federalism has been an excellent compromise between strong national government and state government diversity, constitution has been very adaptable to changes in American society, demanding amendment process has prevented ill-conceived proposals.
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Does the US Constitution still work? (YES)
Rights and liberties of Americans have been protected, the SC's power of judicial review has made it even more adaptable through 'interpretative amendment'.
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Does the US Constitution still work? (NO)
Amendment process is too difficult (almost impossible to amend parts that are outdated or add parts that a majority desires), power of judicial review gives the SC too much power to amend its meaning.
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Does the US Constitution still work? (NO)
Too negative (giving too much power to those who oppose change), some parts are not applicable to today's society (Electoral College), some parts do not uphold the wishes of the FFs (war-making powers).
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Does federalism work today? (YES)
Allows more diversity, creates more government access points, it provides double security for individual rights, makes states 'policy laboratories' experimenting with new solutions to old probs, well-suited to a geographically large, diverse nation.
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Does federalism work today? (NO)
Masks economic, racial inequalities, frustrates the 'national will', makes problem-solving more complicated, relationship between federal and state governments can become conflicting and controversial, overly bureaucratic (expensive, doesn't' change.
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Other cards in this set

Card 2

Front

Article of the Constitution that states the Constitution, as well as federal laws and treaties shall be the 'supreme law of the land'.

Back

What is the supremacy clause>

Card 3

Front

Powers delegated to the federal government under the Constitution.

Back

Preview of the back of card 3

Card 4

Front

Federal government does not possess unlimited power but only such power as it is given in the Constitution.

Back

Preview of the back of card 4

Card 5

Front

Powers that are possessed by the federal government by inference from those powers delegated to it.

Back

Preview of the back of card 5
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