5 The President
5.1 Executive power
The executive power of the Confederation is vested in the President. This section provides a general definition of the President's role within the confederate institutions. This general definition is further clarified in the remainder of the chapter, especially in section 5.2.
Section 5.1 corresponds to the first part of U.S. II.1.1. The remaining issues regulated by the U.S. equivalent (the presidential term and elections) are dealt with separately in the proposal's section 5.3.
This section defines the executive power of the President. It grants the President the position of Commander-in-Chief, empowers him to appoint department heads, grant pardons, make treaties, make proposals to state legislatures or state citizens, make proposals to Congress, veto legislation and reduce or eliminate appropriations in order to balance the confederate budget.
The proposed constitution outlines a very powerful presidency compared with the legislature's (Congress`) powers. But as the confederate powers themselves are relatively weak, the sum of presidential powers are less than those of most contemporary federations.
Because the President in many instances, may better represent the people than the Congress, his functions as the third house of the legislature has been extended. The veto power applies to all decisions of the Congress, i.e. even to decisions that normally require a two thirds majority like proposing constitutional amendments (amendments to part two of the Constitution), approving deficits etc. The veto can be overridden by Congress by a majority that is 1/6 larger than that required for a decision that meets with the approval of the President, i.e. a majority has to be increased to a two thirds majority, and a two thirds majority has to be increased to a five sixths majority.
The line item veto and the power to reduce appropriations provides the President with powers similar to those of the Referendum. It provides for the unbundling and uncoupling of spending and legislative decisions in Congress.
5.2.1 Line by line comparison with the U.S. Constitution's Article II. sections 2 and 3
Subsection 5.2.2, appointment of officers, corresponds to U.S. II.2.2 , but limits have been introduced on the Senate's and the President's deliberations as a means of avoiding dead-locks in case of disputes.
Subsection 5.2.3, reprieves and pardons, corresponds to U.S. II.2.1, but limits the President's power to grant reprieves and pardons in the case of impeachment. This limitation is found in the U.S. II.4.
Subsection 5.2.4 provides for the making of treaties with the consent of Congress instead of (U.S. II.2.2) a two thirds majority in the Senate. The proposed change has to do with the changing nature of treaties. Many contemporary treaties deal with matters that previously would have been purely domestic matters subject to ordinary statutory legislation where both houses of Congress have a role to play.
Subsection 5.2.5, the right to make formal proposals to the authorities of individual states, is a new power not granted to the U.S. President.
Subsection 5.2.6, the right to make formal proposals directly to the citizens of individual states, is a new power not granted to the U.S. President.
Subsection 5.2.8, presidential veto powers, corresponds to the U.S. I.7.2 and U.S. I.7.3, but with major modifications:
An implied veto, unlike its U.S. counterpart, alleviates the need for special regulations related to any actions the Congress may take to prevent the timely return of a veto.
Subsection 5.2.9, the power to reduce appropriations, is a new power not granted to the U.S. President. It gives added flexibility in combating excessive spending and budgetary deficits.
It also confirms the President's role as the people's instrument in checking the ambitions of Congress and reconciling the interests of geographical or other pressure groups with those of the people as a whole. It provides a mechanism for enforcing the balanced budget requirement.
5.3 Term and election
Section 5.3 provides for direct presidential elections and fixes the ordinary term at 5 years. If no candidate has a majority of votes cast in the first ballot, there is a run-off between the two candidates with the highest number of votes.
By loosening the requirements for recall (see below), there is no reason why the presidential term may not be further extended (see also the discussion related to continuous election of senators and representatives in Election Methods).
No limitation on the number of terms is proposed. To the extent that this becomes a problem it may be alleviated through a recall.
This section has no equivalent in either the U.S. or the Swiss constitutions. Candidates are nominated directly by the people through the instrument of petitions. The purpose of this procedure is to make the nomination process independent of party politics and procedures.
The vice presidential candidate is chosen by the presidential candidate. This corresponds to U.S. practice, but not constitutional wording (see U.S. II.1.3).
Section 5.5 is modeled on the U.S. Constitution. The first subsection states that the President is removable on impeachment. This corresponds to a similar if not identically worded provision in U.S. II.4.
The rest of the section corresponds to the original removal provisions in the U.S. constitution (U.S. II.1.6).
By its power of regulating the courts, Congress may provide for a swift resolution of the President's possible inability, for instance by specifying the supreme court as having original jurisdiction, specifying time limits and special procedures for times of war and crisis and so on. Swiftness, flexibility and impartiality is better served by such a relatively small judicial body, than a larger body which may also be prevented from assembling by the very crisis that demands a swift resolution.
The corresponding section II.1.6 of the U.S. constitution has since been replaced by the twenty-fifth amendment which in my view:
Thus, safety is better served by a relatively simple rule that is flexible enough to take account of crisis circumstances, and without encouragement for any congressional usurpation of executive power.
Copyright © 1991-2003 John F. Knutsen
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