Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The president of the United States has too much power

Trump is merely the continuation of an unsettling trend
(Leigh Vogel/Sipa USA/TNS)
(Leigh Vogel/Sipa USA/TNS)

If you are concerned that President Trump has gone or will go too far in overstepping his bounds as the leader of the executive branch, consider yourself part of a very large group that agrees with this sentiment. This consensus makes sense; after all, our country was founded on the principles of limited executive power, a result of years of oppression of the colonies by King George III, and those who wrote the Constitution were as wary of tyrannical leaders as modern-day people are of cockroaches. Despite this ideological harmony among the American people since the beginning of the Union, the country has been drifting away from the notion of legislative supremacy as the powers of the president have grown unnecessarily large.

The Constitution lays out the powers granted to the president. Those powers include being Commander-in-Chief of the military and being able to nominate officials including heads of executive offices, as well as Supreme Court justices. The Constitution also gives the president the ability to grant pardons except for those involved in impeachable offenses, the ability to make treaties with foreign nations subject to a two-thirds majority approval in the Senate and the ability to fill vacancies when the Senate is not in session. Almost every one of these powers has been overstepped by presidents in the past.

Take, for example, the first power: the president is the Commander-in-Chief of the military. However, the document gives conflicting directions regarding war-making powers. Article 1, Section 8 allows Congress to declare war. In theory, this means that any time U.S. troops are involved in some sort of conflict, Congress should have voted to send said troops to participate in the conflict. This, alas, has not been true for some time.

The last time Congress declared war was in 1942, denoting the entry of the U.S. into World War II. However, the U.S. has been involved in no less than 14 international conflicts since World War II. The Cold War conflicts of Korea and Vietnam come to mind, as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when thinking about how much power the president has in sending troops internationally. While some of these wars may have been granted approval by Congress had they been given the chance, there is a good case to be made that the president should not be able to unilaterally decide to send troops wherever he pleases.

The apparent contradiction in the Constitution regarding the military is solved by Alexander Hamilton, who wrote in Federalist Paper No. 69 that “the President will have only the occasional command of such part of the militia of the nation as by legislative provision may be called into the actual service of the Union.” The executive office has extrapolated far too much out of its limited powers in wartime granted by the Constitution, and the power of making war should be returned solely to the legislature. Another instance in which the presidency has made a mockery of the Constitution is in the realm of treaties. As stated before, the president has the power to make treaties with other nations provided two-thirds of the Senate agrees to ratify them.Since two-thirds of the Senate is a large number (67 out of 100) to get to agree on anything, Franklin Delano Roosevelt often circumvented this idea by not calling his agreements treaties. In other words, he employed a bit of jargonistic gymnastics in order to avoid the arduous process of Senate ratification. While I have to give FDR credit for this relatively ingenious trick, it does not excuse the ideas that this move grabbed more power from the legislature than he should be forgiven for. The president should make treaties agreeable enough to get the Senate to ratify them.

Perhaps the most egregious form of presidential power-grabbing is the rapid increase in the writing of executive orders since the early days of the Union. An executive order is “a directive from the President that has much of the same power as a federal law.” There is no mention of executive orders in the Constitution, and for good reason: The legislature is supposed to make the laws, not the Executive Branch. In the early days of the Republic, presidents hardly used them: Jefferson, for instance, only issued four in his eight-year tenure. Contrast that with President Obama’s 276 in the same amount of time and you begin to get a picture of executive supremacy that is troubling. President Trump, by the way, is on track to issue 416 if he remains in office for eight years. While these numbers are down from the Roosevelt-era highs (FDR issued 3,721 executive orders in just over 12 years, an average of 307 per year), it is still far more than one would hope.

The U.S. executive branch has gained significant power over the years. While it is not quite as powerful as, say, King George’s excesses, it is still much more independently powerful than the Founders intended. I believe that this power-grab was an effort, perhaps exemplified most clearly in FDR’s era, to take over the powers of the legislature because of the perceived expertise of the president. But Congress represents the voice of the people and after all, this country was founded by the people, for the people. The president needs to recognize that Congress does a better job of representing the people than he does. The executive branch needs to take a step back and return to merely enforcing the rules, rather than making them.

Greg Fournier is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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  • M

    MickFeb 4, 2022 at 1:05 am

    The President has long been exercising power and authority well beyond its intended role within the framework of the constitution and America has paid the for that bloated office of overreach.
    Congress which is supposed to be the most powerful branch of governance has failed to check the executive branch and SCOTUS has long inflicted more damage upon the constitution than the wannabe royal executives that have oozed throughout the Oval Office over the last century.
    The President was never supposed to have the power to greatly affect the lives of the American people.
    The nation can thank FDR for the bloated overreaching executive branch of government. He was the progressive traitor who laid this entire foundation of constitutional rot, ruin, and overreach.
    The entire nation should scorn this man instead the country has been indoctrinated and conditioned to praise FDR and the other executive traitors as heroes.
    There was 2018 article from the Boston Globe that stupidly claims the President needs more powers because Congress was never meant to be the most powerful nor was it meant to solve everyone’s problems. While I agree that it’s not congresses job nor the rest of government’s job to solve everyone’s problems. It’s certainly not the President’s job neither and wanting give an already overreaching branch of governance more power is beyond delusional.
    Clearly the deluded who wrote such an article knows nothing about the constitution or they would know that Congress is always supposed to be the most powerful branch of government period. The President is not a king and the American people are not subjects to rule of wannabe kings and democratic dictators.
    America’s dysfunctional government is a result of poison partisan politics and far too much executive overreach in far too many aspects of life beyond the realm of government.
    The powers of the President need to be stripped and restored back to what constitution bestows upon that office. The very same needs to be done with every other office and institution of governance and law enforcement.
    There’s far too much government meddling in far too many aspects of life beyond the realm and reality of government. This is exactly why the American economy has been progressively transformed into a corporate statist economy. It’s why education is nothing more than an indoctrination and conditioning machine.
    The federal government alone has some fifty plus federal law enforcement institutions criminalizing citizen, country, and constitution.
    90% of America’s problems have been fathered and fueled by the nation’s own overreaching government.
    The Democratic and Republican Party have become the very embodiment of all that is wrong, rotten, and ruinous within American society.
    This two party political con failed forty years ago and the country’s addiction to blindly recycling these two failures has done nothing but burying the citizen, country, and constitution under a never ending pile of bureaucratic shit and one-sided laws of ignorances.
    Laws of ignorances retard all who abide by them by forcing the stupidity of its creators upon the abided populace.
    This nation needs to desperately restore its constitution and thoroughly deflating the overreaching powers of government starting with the executive branch.
    There have to many Presidential sucks that have trampled the bill of rights which is something well beyond the power and authority of the President.
    Neither Congress nor the President have the constitutional power to control, restrict, or police the original bill of rights.

  • N

    NITZAKHONSep 24, 2018 at 3:49 pm

    After President “I have a pen and a phone” and you people said nothing, you lack the moral or ethical standing to make this argument.

    Being lectured by a liberal on the Rule of Law, checks and balances, and pretty much anything having to do with adherence to the Constitution is like being lectured about abstinence and fidelity by a hooker.

  • A

    amySep 24, 2018 at 9:57 am

    Beverly sounds like a lliberal Alex Jones; millions of people are brainwashed by the president? Is it through twitter? Is it through the food? Fox news?

    Also this attempt to label americans as trump supporters is misleading; 65 million americans voted for trump and those who statistically at least in terms of wealth and income were more successful than Clinton voters.

    Those who hate and resist the president refer to the american people as if they are small radical group of ‘supporters’, but in reality 65 million mainstream americans from every walk of life voted for the president and support him.

  • B

    Beverly ReedSep 20, 2018 at 8:55 pm

    What is most scary to me are Trump’s supporters, the ones who voted him in and gave such power to an obviously mentally imbalanced man.

    Most concerning to this writer are the millions of vulnerable people who allowed him to brainwash and manipulate their minds, many still supporting him even after watching his despicable, indecent, unpatriotic, prejudiced and unethical actions.

  • A

    amySep 20, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    Are you kidding? President trump’s powers are severely limited by democrats; so many of his exeuctive decisions have been undermined, democrats/liberals like to cheat the people and undo legislation they supported by using the court system; the crimnial justice system is abused as a tool of political persecution, a large number of the president’s nominees have been delayed by democrats.

    President trump doesn’t have enough power; he was elected by over 65 million americans as president of the united states and part of the reason he was elected was to restore America and get rid of/destroy the left, globalism and socalism.

    If anything President Trump needs more power and the american people should figure out a way to make sure he gets it.