The democratic system of government relies mainly upon the proper functioning and the harmonious relationship between its three main branches: The Executive Department which has the power to execute the law; b) the Legislative Branch which has the power to propose, enact, amend and repeal the law; c) the Judiciary which has the power to interpret the law. Our constitution has divided these three most important functions to these three departments which are considered co-equal and supreme authority within their own domain.
The principle of separation of powers has for its aim the prevention of the over concentration of authority in one person or group of persons that might lead to an error or abuse to the prejudice of the whole state. The idea is that the separation of power will produce greater action on the part of these three departments, prevent any of these three departments from over-extending their authority to the point of encroaching into the domains of the other department, to prevent the possibility of abuse by any department in the exercise of its power and to obtain maximum efficiency in the delivery of public service.
Austin Ranney (1995) once said that any concentration of powers in a single branch is tyrannical and only true separation of powers will protect the liberties of the people against the aggressions of government. (Austin Ranney, p. 240) Checks and Balances The US Constitution has provided for the principle known as the checks and balances. Under this principle, the constitution has given each department certain powers by which it may restrain the other department from improvident action.
This enables the whole state to maintain the right balance among them and preserve the will of the sovereign as expressed in the constitution. Thus, pursuant to the principle of Checks and Balances, one department is allowed to resist encroachments made by one department against another or to rectify mistakes and errors committed by the other department. The principle of separation of powers should not however be interpreted to mean that there is a sibling rivalry of some sort in the exercise of the powers of these departments.
The fact remains that even if one department may control, interfere with or encroach upon the acts done by another department pursuant to the constitution, it is still the policy that each department have to interact with one another to achieve a unity of purpose. There is therefore no wall of isolation or animosity among the three departments. Blending of Powers Corollary to the principle of separation of powers and the checks and balances is the principle of blending of powers which is very evident in the manner every democratic government runs.
In the performance of a constitutional task, one department acts in a manner complimentary to or supplementary to the other. The principles of separation of powers, checks and balances and blending of powers can be adequately explained in the manner of enactment of laws and statutes. The principle of separation of powers provides that to the legislative belongs the power and authority to enact, amend and repeal a law. To the executive department belongs the power to implement the law. Thus bills are passed by Congress and sent to the President for his approval.
The principle of checks and balances is manifested in the way the president vetoes the bills passed by the Congress. The power to veto bills passed by Congress is stated under Article 1 Section 7 of the United States Constitution, to wit: “Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. (Article 1, Section 7, United States Constitution)
Though the Congress enacts the law, the president has the prerogative to reject the law through his exercise of the veto power. In effect, the President, theoretically, can indirectly become a lawmaker by rejecting bills passed by Congress and by proposing to the Congress that certain bills be passed. The same is true for Congress which may greatly influence the exercise of the President of his authority to implement the law.
It is clearly stated in the US Constitution that it has the power to override the veto power of the President provided it has the required numbers supporting it, to wit: “If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law.
But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law. ” (Article 1, Sec 7, United States Constitution)
In addition, to its power to override presidential veto, Congress may opt to exercise pressure to the president by not confirming certain presidential appointments which the constitution has delegated to the Legislative Branch. In addition, the Congress may also exercise its power to commence and initiate its power of Impeachment. (Gary W. Copeland) In effect, the Congress if it really wants to enact a bill into law may convince the President with the exercise of its power to sign the bills into law. Factors Why the President Veto Legislation
There are different views on the president’s exercise of his veto power. Some say that the more the president exercises his veto power the more effective leader he is. (Jong R. Lee) The theory is that a president who can influence the Congress is more likely to veto a bill and once vetoed this bill will not be overridden by Congress. This appears to be conclusive considering the following statistics: from the time of Washington to Nixon the veto was used 2,257 times. Out of these, only 75 vetoes or only 6% have been overridden by Congress.
On the other hand, some say that the president’s exercise of veto is a sign of weakness on his part. The idea here is that if the president really had control and influence over the Congress then they would not have passed these bills that prompted the president to override them in the first place. The veto power is one of the potent weapons which a president may exercise under our democratic system of government. It is even stated that it is the power of the President to veto legislations that make him a dominant American political figure. Copeland) The veto power of the president serves as a check to the power of the Legislative branch to make laws by exercising its veto power. One of the reasons cited for the exercise of the veto powers is because the bill is unconstitutional. The primary function of the President is not to please his political party or to please the electorates. His main responsibility is to protect the constitution and to ensure that the laws are passed in accordance with the United States Constitution.
As its protector, the Constitution has expressly given the president the power to veto bills which are unconstitutional. Thus, several presidents have in the past vetoed bills on the ground of their unconstitutionality. Thus, consider President Andrew Jackson who vetoed bills that seek to extend the charter of the Second Bank of the United States because he insisted the Bank was beyond the power of Congress to create. (Bruce Fein) Aside from the bill’s unconstitutionality, the president has also in the past vetoed bills based on serious ethical and moral grounds.
One particular example is HR 810 or the Stem Cell Research Enhancement Act of 2006 which authorized the Secretary of State to conduct and support research that utilizes human embryonic cells. This bill was vetoed by the president. (“Message to the House of Representatives”) In his veto message dated July 19, 2006, President George W. Bush states that as though he is in favor of exploring the potentials of the research on stem cell, he however is apprehensive about the ethical repercussions of the said research.
Signing this bill will allow the deliberate destruction of human embryos for the purpose of research which is damaging to our nation. In addition, it is widely acknowledged that the past president have used the veto power not merely to protect the constitution. The president has in the past used the veto power not merely as a means for protecting the constitution but also for various political purposes. It bears stressing that not all presidents have the support of the Congress. Several presidents in the past have to contend with a hostile Congress to get the needed legislations they wanted.
If the president would not be firm in his response, it is possible that certain important pieces of legislations may not be passed at all. To avoid this from happening some presidents in the past have resorted to the extreme method of vetoing more laws to remind that that he holds the power. Consider the case of Franklin D. Roosevelt who in the past occasionally vetoed a piece of legislation simply to remind Congress that he is still in control (Richard E. Neustadt 1976) Harry Truman and Gerald Ford used the veto power for the purpose of determining differences in Congress to build a political base. (Neudstadt)
It is the essence of democracy that the legislative and executive departments though they perform different tasks are co-equal. This may or may not be advantageous for the whole citizenry depending on the condition of the nation. It may happen that the country may experience economic difficulties. During this time, laws must be swiftly passed so that the needs of the people will be addressed more quickly. The ideal reaction would be that the Congress should communicate with the President so that they will have an understanding of what kind of laws need to be passed that can help improve the lives of the people.
However, the exact opposite happens during economic difficulties. It is at this point that everybody wants to go grandstanding thinking that it is his best time to point the blame to another politician. It is at this time when every politician wants to be recognized for the littlest things he has done in the past. It is because of this reason that during economic difficulties and hardships there are more bills that are being vetoed by the president. Research has also shown that the president who feels that more voters are in his favor are more likely to use the veto power.
The idea here is that the more the president thinks that he has the electorate on his side the more that he will tend to exercise this power to veto legislation. This could be measured by analyzing the results of the election in the past, the higher the votes the president gets the more likely it is that he will exercise this power. The political party who sponsored the bill may also influence the decision of the president whether he will veto it or not. The theory is that the more votes the bill receives from the members of his own party in Congress, the more likely that the president will sign the bill into law.
On the other hand, the less votes the bill receives from the members of his own party, the more likely it is that the president will not sign the bill into law. Normally, when a bill is sponsored by a representative from a political party different from that o the president, the best thing for him to do if he seeks to have the bill passed into law is to compromise with the president and the other political party. Compromise can be manifested by deleting some portions of the bill which is objectionable on the part of the other political party.
It bears stressing that if the sponsor of the bill refuses to eliminate these objectionable portions it is more likely that the president will likewise refuse to sing the bill into law and veto it. Conclusion The democratic system of government is indeed a complex system which requires the proper balance among its three branches. Based on the foregoing, there are many factors why a president may make use of his veto power. It could be because of the personality of the president. There are some presidents who are more inclined to veto legislations because they feel they have support of the electorate.
President may also veto legislation because of the person sponsoring the bill. It is possible if the sponsor of the bill is someone other than a party mate of the president and the former does not make any compromises with the president such as deleting any objectionable portion of the bill then it is possible that the bill may be vetoed. Also, it could be because of the defects in the bill itself such as it is unconstitutional, unethical and immoral or may be because it is not yet timely.