Constitution Post: Article I, Section 7

In this week’s Constitution Post, we will consider Article I, Section 7.  This section makes several vital additions to the organism of checks and balances implemented by the Constitution and serves to differentiate our form of government from nearly every other government on earth.  This section institutes checks and balances that pertain to the legislative process (the process by which laws are introduced, passed, and finalized). 

Let’s take each clause of Article I, Section 7, and dissect them one at a time. 

The Origination Clause 

Clause 1: “All bills for raising revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other Bills.”

This paragraph is known as the “Origination Clause.”  It gives the authority to raise national revenue only to the House of Representatives; by so doing, it also precludes the Senate from introducing any bills that, if implemented, would raise revenue.  Why would this be? 

When one thinks of the phrase separation of powers, he, or she, will likely only think of the phrase in terms of the separation of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches; and truly, this is the bulk of the meaning; however, appropriating an entire classification of bills solely to the jurisdiction of one house of Congress is a sort of separation of powers in and of itself. 

Think about it: there are only so many ways to increase revenue, and one of those ways is to increase taxes.  Tax increases impose a pecuniary (monetary) burden on the people.  The Framers of the Constitution were keenly aware of the insidious effects of an excessive tax burden on the people, having only recently thrown off the profligate hand of King George.  With this in mind, this clause was introduced to restrict the monetary power of Congress.  As Erik M. Jensen, the David L. Brennan Professor of Law at Case Western Reserve University Law School, states, “…the Framers expected that the Origination Clause would ensure that ‘power over the purse’ would lie with the legislative body closer to the people.”  Remember, until 1913, the year the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified, U.S. senators were chosen by state legislatures rather than elected by the people; thus, the U.S. House of Representatives — the “lower house” — was seen as being “closer to the people,” and would, therefore, be more trustworthy in matters of national revenue. 

The Presentment Clause 

Clause 2: “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.  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.”

This second paragraph is known as the “Presentment Clause.”  This clause outlines a much-debated issue of the Constitutional Convention: the President’s role in the legislative process. 

The Presentment clause states several things: 

-First, that any bill that Congress may pass is subject to executive approval; that is, it must be presented to the President for consideration and must receive his signature before becoming a law. 

-Second, that if the President does not approve  bill, he must return it to Congress.  This action is called a “veto.”  This clause requires that, when the President vetoes a bill, he state his objections to the bill and submit them to the house of Congress in which the bill was introduced for reconsideration. 

-Third, that reconsideration of the bill in light of the President’s objections is required of the house from which a vetoed bill originated.  Such house is also required to make note of the President’s objections in their journal. 

-Fourth, that if, after reconsideration, the members of the house of the bill’s origination disagree with the President’s objections, they can try to override his veto.  In order to accomplish this, they must procure a two-thirds majority vote for the override, and then send the bill to the other house for reconsideration.  If the other house also votes with a two-thirds majority to override the President’s veto, then the override is complete, and the bill becomes law in spite of the President’s objections.  

-Fifth, that all votes will be indicated by “yeas and nays.”  In addition, the names of those voting, and how they voted, must be recorded in the house’s journal. 

-Finally, that if the President does not veto a bill within ten days after it is presented to him, then it becomes a law.  However, if Congress adjourns before that period has expired, then the bill does not become law.  This is a kind of veto, and was termed by Andrew Jackson the “Pocket Veto.”  If a bill is submitted to the President less than ten days before Congress adjourns, the President could neither approve nor return the bill, and it would simply die and have to be reintroduced during the next session.  Sundays are not included in the ten-day timeline. 

The Presentment Clause was principally instituted to prevent the executive branch and congress, or either of the congressional houses, from attempting to pass laws outside of statutory authority; that is, to prevent them from passing laws without the approval of the other entities that are, according to Constitutional statute, to be involved in the legislative process.  In other words, Congress cannot implement a law without the President’s signature, the President cannot implement a law without the vote of Congress, and neither house of Congress can implement a law without the President’s signature and the concurring vote of the other house. 

It is important to remember that a President’s veto is not necessarily the “final say.”  To quote Michael Rappaport, Professor of Law at the University of San Diego School of Law,

“It is worth noting that the executive veto is not a fiat—the President must return the vetoed bill to Congress ‘with his Objections’ so that Congress may reconsider the bill in light of these objections.  The Presentment Clause serves not only to delineate the President’s role in the legislative process; its detailed stipulations also make clear that Congress may not bypass them, for example, by delegating its legislative powers to administrative agencies (see Constitutional Guidance for Lawmakers No. 1 on Article I, Section 1: ‘Legislative Powers: Not Yours to Give Away ‘).”

To use less formal jargon, we might say, “It’s not a done deal!”

The Presentment of Resolutions Clause 

Clause 3: “Every order, resolution, or vote to which the concurrence of the Senate and House of Representatives may be necessary (except on a question of adjournment) shall be presented to the President of the United States; and before the same shall take effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the rules and limitations prescribed in the case of a bill.”

This last paragraph is known as the “Presentment of Resolutions Clause.”  It basically says that everything Congress may pass is subject to the approval of the President and reiterates the rules for a veto and veto override. 

The Presentment of Resolutions Clause was meant to safeguard against a violation of the Presentment Clause.  At the Constitutional Convention, James Madison expressed concern that Congress could circumvent the Presentment Clause merely by calling a bill by another name.  This clause is a comprehensive prohibition of any circumvention of presentment, and ensures that the President will have a say in all legislation or Congressional order that will bear the force of law, except, of course, decisions regarding when Congress will adjourn. 

Conclusion 

I hope you’ve found this helpful and enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed researching for it and writing it!  As you can tell, our Constitution was meticulously crafted to protect our liberty.  We must uphold these checks and balances and keep those accountable who would violate them! 

As always, we would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below! 

~Benjamin

Sources:

“How a Bill Becomes a Law: The Constitutional Way,” by Michael Rappaport: 

http://www.heritage.org/the-constitution/report/how-bill-becomes-law-the-constitutional-way

U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 7:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/constitution/articlei

The Heritage Foundation, Constitution Essays — “Origination Clause”: 

http://www.heritage.org/constitution/#!/articles/1/essays/30/origination-clause

The Heritage Foundation, Constitution Essays — “Presentment Clause”:

http://www.heritage.org/constitution/#!/articles/1/essays/31/presentment-clause

The Heritage Foundation, Constitution Essays –“Pocket Veto”:

http://www.heritage.org/constitution/#!/articles/1/essays/32/pocket-veto

The Heritage Foundation, Constitution Essays — “Presentment of Resolutions”:

http://www.heritage.org/constitution/#!/articles/1/essays/33/presentment-of-resolutions

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