Letters of Liberty
                                                                         Horizontal Divide  

                Even though the horizontal divide rarely affects our day to day decision process as individuals, it seems to be covered by all the media channels 24 hours a day seven days a week. It is as if our world revolves around what a Senator, House of Representative, or President says.  To compound the problem is that these well intended individuals, who represent us at the federal level, continually tell the American people what they want to hear yet fail to make the tough choices.               

First let’s briefly discuss they horizontal divide and then their respective responsibilities.  This will give you a better understanding of the tasks each branch has and also their authorities as well.

Our Federal government has three separate branches.  Even though they are designed to be a check and balance on each other, they have two things in common other than being American citizens.  All branches are either directly or indirectly elected or appointed by the states or their individuals.  They also take an oath to uphold and defend your Constitution thus they are committed to protect your liberties.  Looking at the three branches of the Federal government, they are the legislative, executive, and judicial.  I have listed them in strongest to weakest respectively.

The legislative branch is a dual system which provides the people with a double security.  The House of Representatives to represent the people of the states they were elected.  This is the more direct link between the people and their federal government because they understand the needs and concerns of their constituents.  However, unlike the state representatives, who also understand the people concerns, a House of Representative must understand their limits placed on them under your Constitution.

The Senate was formed to represent the interest of the states.  The original Constitution decreed that Senators were to be appointed by the state legislators.  Ideally the states would choose the most experienced legislator to represent the state at the federal level.  Although there was much discussion on how many Senators each state was to have and how to determine that number caused some harsh debates during the summer of 1787, they finally compromised to grant each state with two Senators per state.  This is an important check and balance in the legislative branch as the people’s representation in the House of Representatives varies on the number of people in each state.   States may have more people thus giving some states more representatives than others.  However, each state, regardless of their population, will have the same number of Senators.  If they would have delegated Senators on a populous basis, then the larger states with more people could bind together and pass legislation that favored their needs and disenfranchised those of the smaller less populated states.

After the 17th Amendment in 1913, Senators are now to be elected by the people in lieu of appointed by the state.

The next hurdle the delegates fought fiercely over was the very powers that the legislative branch was to be handed.  There were those who believed that they should have very few, and the states were to have the bulk of the powers.  Others believed that the federal government should have a much broader authority to make many decisions that would affect people more directly.  A compromise was hammered out after long debates.  Now I will list the powers the legislative branch has as found in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.  However, I will abbreviate it to make it more understandable.

Congress has the Authority to:

                Borrow money

                Establish Rules for Citizenship

                Tax

                Spend Money for Listed Powers

                Establish Bankruptcy Laws

                Standardize Measures and Weights

                Regulate Commerce between States, Indian Nations, and Foreign Nations

                Coin Money

                Punish Counterfeiting

                Declare War

                Establish a Postal System

                Build and Maintain a Navy

                Punish Acts of Piracy

                Establish a Uniform Militia

                Call up State Militias

                Establish Federal Courts

                Pass Copyright and Patent Laws

                Raise and Finance an Armed Militia

                Pass laws to implement the Above Enumerated Power

Even with the passage of the 16th amendment, which gives the congress power to levy taxes on a broader scale, there is no authority to spend except for the above powers.  So how is the legislative body able to spend on virtually any want or need it deems necessary?  We shall address that in a following letter.

Our federal government’s primary responsibility to defend the country from invasion and then discharge its subsequent debt occurred.  The reason this was not listed as an enumerated power is due to common sense understanding that this is the primary function of the federal government.

                The executive branch consists of a president and a vice president.  The powers of the executive branch are found in Article II of the Constitution in which there are only six.  Both the Federalists and Anti-Federalists had reservations concerning a central power with too much authority.  They had studied previous governments and discovered how easily a government could be destroyed by a ruthless or unstable supreme ruler.  So they severely limited our president’s powers in our new union to protect our republic.

                In Article I section 7 they inserted veto power to let the legislative branch fully aware that legislation they would lay at his desk was to meet Constitutional standards.  I shall list the remainder of the powers found in Article II.

                                Chief Administrator of the Union

                                Ability to grant pardons or reprieves

                                Commander and Chief of Military

                                Chief Executive Officer of Legislative Branch

                                The Chief Diplomat of Foreign Affairs

                                Chief Architect for Legislation

                The Judicial branch is the Supreme Court.  It is an important check and balance because it has the authority to return unconstitutional legislation, if a case if raised in an inferior court passed by the legislative and signed by the executive branches.  Currently there are nine Supreme Court Justices who all were nominated by a president and confirmed by the Senate for a lifetime appointment. 

                They are the supreme arbitrator concerning Constitutional cases which have worked their way through the judicial process.  Yet they are the weakest branch of the federal government because they cannot pass legislation, appropriate money, declare war, coin money, etc.

                Their powers are to found in Article III of the Constitution.  Having all three branches completes the horizontal divide.