The Constitution. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land —no local law, state law, school rule or any other law imposed by the government can go against it. State Law. CONSTITUTION. Local Law. School Rule. The Preamble tells us the purpose of the Constitution :
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The Constitution is the supreme law of the land—no local law, state law, school rule or any other law imposed by the government can go against it.
The Preamble tells us the purpose of the Constitution:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
The Preamble—explains why it was made
Article 1—explains the Legislative Branch
Article 2—explains the Executive Branch
Article 3—explains the Judicial Branch
Article 4—explains how states interact
Article 5—Tells how to change the Constitution
Article 6—Tells the supremacy of the National Government
Bill of Rights—lists rights retained by the people
The Capitol Building
The legislative branch makes the laws
This goes to the heart of republicanism= choosing representatives to make laws rather than relying on kings and queens
There are two parts: the House of Representatives and the Senate
The House is based on population whereas each state gets two members in the Senate (remember the Great Compromise)
Members of the House of Representatives must be at least 25 years old and they serve two-year terms:
Live in the area that you are representing
Senators must be 30 years-old, have been a citizen for nine years and they serve six-year terms.
All the rest of the requirements are the same
20 years in office
21 years in office
When laws and the Constitution come into conflict, the Constitution reigns supreme.
The Legislative Branch cannot make laws that go against the Constitution. The Constitution sets the boundaries in which laws passed must stay. If Congress passes a law that goes out of those boundaries, it’s the job of the Supreme Court to rule it unconstitutional.
1. Also called Congress, their job is to make laws
2. Made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate
3. Every state gets two Senators but Representatives varies by population
4. You must be 25-years-old to be a Representative and 30 to be a Senator
5. Senators serve six year terms and Representatives serve two-year terms
How Laws are Made
In order for a bill to become a law, three things have to happen:
House gets a majority
Senate gets a majority
The President signs it
IT’S A LAW!!!
A VETO is a check the Executive Branch has over the Legislative Branch.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE….
So, Congress can override a veto, but it won’t be easy…
Instead of needing a simple majority (more than half), if the President vetoes a bill Congress needs 2/3 of the House and 2/3 of the Senate to turn the bill into a law.
If the President agrees with both parts of Congress, a majority in Congress passes the law. If the President disagrees, it gets harder.
SIMPLE MAJORITY (MORE THAN HALF)
A veto is a check the President has over Congress. It doesn’t automatically stop a bill from becoming a law, but rather makes it harder for Congress to pass the bill. Overriding a veto is a check Congress has on the President. It assures that even though the President is powerful, if the will in Congress is strong enough, they can go against his wishes.
Article Two: The Executive Branch
The executive Branch is headed by the President of the United States. Can you name them?
Be at least 35-years-old
Terms and years
The term for a President is four years, and unlike Congressman, Presidents have term limits, as they can only serve two terms.
Originally, this was just a tradition or precedent set by Washington, but eventually it was added to the Constitution with the 22nd Amendment.
Youngest: Teddy Roosevelt, 42-years-old
Oldest: Ronald Reagan, 77-years-old
Longest serving: Franklin Roosevelt,
Shortest serving: William Henry Harrison,
Largest President: William
Howard Taft, 320 lbs
Smallest President: James Madison, about 100 lbs
Secretary of Commerce
Secretary of Labor
Secretary of Health and Human Services
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Secretary of Transportation
Secretary of Energy
Secretary of Education
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Secretary of Homeland Security
The Vice President
Speaker of the House
President pro tempore of the Senate1
Secretary of State
Secretary of the Treasury
Secretary of Defense
Secretary of the Interior
Secretary of Agriculture
The job of the President is to enforce the laws. In other words, they are to make sure that the laws passed by Congress and the rulings of the courts are carried through.
Alabama Governor George Wallace was defying the Supreme Court’s order to integrate the University of Alabama and let African-American students enroll, so…
Alabama Governor George Wallace who had been defying it.
National Guard sent by President Kennedy to enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling.
The President gets the final say on decisions in times of war: who to attack, when to attack them, where to deploy troops, when to bring troops home and so forth. He relies upon his Secretary of Defense and Chiefs of Staff for advice. Congress, however, declares war and determines funding.
The President also has a military title: Commander-in-Chief
Chiefs of Staff
Presidents also sign treaties and agreements with other countries. Here, President Reagan is shown in 1987 with Soviet Premier Gorbachev.
1. The Executive Branch consists of the President and Vice-President
2. Their job is to enforce the Constitution
3. President and VP get elected as a package called a “ticket”
4. Serve four-year-term and have a two-term limit.
5. POTUS’ jobs include foreign policy, encouraging a domestic agenda and being the final stage in the law-making process
Presidents are elected to four year terms and can only be elected twice.
They are elected by a system called the…
Each state is in charge of how they award their own electoral votes. In every state besides Nebraska and Maine, the candidate that wins the state wins ALL of the electoral votes for the state. This is called “winner-take-all”
The number of electoral votes per state is determined by their number of Representatives plus the number of Senators.
WAIT ‘TIL YOU HEAR THIS…
There are actual people, called electors, that each state chooses by whatever method they want. Those electors are entrusted to fulfill or represent the will of the voters in their state.
Though the presidential election happens in late November, the electors meet several weeks later to cast their ballots and submit them.
They are expected to fulfill the will of the voters in their state according to their state law.
So, if a presidential candidate was to win all three states, they would get all 92 electoral votes.
Currently, there are 538 electoral votes available and 270 needed to win the Presidency. That’s just over half.
Because the President is determined by electoral votes and NOT TOTAL POPULAR VOTES, it is possible to get more total votes and still losea Presidential election.
This has happened four times: 1824 (JQ Adams over Jackson), 1876 (Hayes over Tilden), 1888 (Harrison over Cleveland) and 2000 (Bush over Gore)
Electoral College explained!
NOTES ON THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE
AKA Congress and
Work together to pass laws. Here’s how…
Once a bill becomes a law, the only branch that can overturn it is the…
The job of the Judicial Branch is to interpret the law and make sure laws and the Constitution are being properly applied.
This process is called “judicial review”
Where the Supreme Court meets
The highest court is the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court consists of nine judges, called “justices”
Justices are appointed by the President, but have to be confirmed (agreed upon) by the Senate
If you are appointed to the Supreme Court, there are no term limits, no residency requirements and no age limits.
THAT’S A LOT OF POWER…BUT WHY?
Unlike members of Congress or the President, justices aren’t supposed to represent a group. Rather, they’re supposed to interpret the Constitution making sure that it is followed.
If Supreme Court justices were up for re-election or re-appointment, they might try to do what was popular or would get them re-appointed, instead of what was Constitutional.
Supreme Court judges don’t have to worry that an unpopular decision will cost them their jobs.
A President getting to appoint a new justice is significant because whomever they appoint will likely be a member of the Supreme Court long after the President that appointed them is out of power.
80 of the 112 justices that have served have done so for more than eight years.
Currently on the court are two appointees of President Reagan, two of President Obama, two of President George W. Bush, one of President Bush Sr. and two of President Clinton.
BREYER; CLINTON; 19 YEARS
SOTAMAYOR; OBAMA; 4 YEARS
GINSBERG; CLINTON; 20 YEARS
THOMAS; BUSH SR; 22 YEARS
KENNEDY; REAGAN; 27 YEARS
SCALIA; REAGAN; 27 YEARS
The main job of the Judicial branch is to make sure the actions of the government are Constitutional. If they are not, the Supreme Court rules them
and they must stop immediately.
The Supreme Court ruling that something is unconstitutional is extremely significant because of its permanence—there is no higher court or person to whom the ruling can be appealed.
The only way work around a ruling of unconstitutional is to begin the extremely difficult task of trying to amend the Constitution itself to include the idea. If it’s in the Constitution it *can’t* be unconstitutional.
Keep in mind the concept of checks and balances and how the three branches interact as it comes to the Judicial Branch…
CAN DECLARE ACTIONS UNCONSTITUTIONAL
NOTES ON THE JUDICIAL BRANCH
What is a Constitutional Amendment?
A Constitutional Amendment is a change or alteration made to the Constitution usually to improve it or clarify its meaning.
“In framing a system we wish to last for ages, we must keep mind of the changes the ages will produce.”
In other words, the people that wrote the Constitution were aware that in order for it to stand the test of time, it had to have the ability to change along with country’s needs and wants.
As James Madison said at the Constitutional Convention...
So, an amendment to the Constitution is a change or alteration made to the Constitution for the better.
Amendments are changes to the Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land. Amendments CANNOT be unconstitutional because once ratified they are a PART OF the Constitution. Because they are a change to the Constitution—not just a law that can be vetoed, repealed, expire or ruled Unconstitutional—is MUCH more difficult to create a new amendment than a law.
A law is like an Etch-a-Sketch drawing; relatively easy to make and easily erased
An Amendment is like a tattoo; harder and more difficult to do and much more permanent.
There are two ways, but only one has ever been used, and it has two steps…
Maybe this will help…
2/3 of the Senate approves
2/3 of the House approves
¾of the states approve
However, this has NEVERhappened
The other way an amendment can be made is by 2/3 of the state legislatures approving and then sending them to state or national conventions for 3/4 approval.
In other words, having a similar process but the amendment is proposed at the state level instead of by a Congressman.
REMEMBER, AN AMENDMENT IS A PERMANENT CHANGE TO THE CONSTITUTION. IT CAN’T BE VETOED, NOR CAN IT BE DECLARED UNCONSTITUTIONAL. THE ONLY WAY TO CHANGE AN AMENDMENT IS TO MAKE ANOTHER AMENDMENT REVERSING IT.
Because amendments are so hard to get passed, only 17 of them (not including the Bill of Rights) have ever been passed.
Over 11,000 have been proposed by members of Congress, however.
This means that approximately 1 out of every 400 proposed amendments has actually been ratified and made it into the Constitution.
Balanced budget amendment
Abolishing the death penalty
Ban on Abortion
Eliminating natural birth requirement to be President
Terms limits on Congressman
Abolishing the electoral system
The banning of flag burning
NOTES ON PASSING AMENDMENTS
The Bill of Rights
The purpose of the Bill of Rights is to clarify some of the most important rights that citizens of the United States have. These rights are supposed to be protected from government interference.
What is it?
The Bill of Rights is simply the first ten amendments to the Constitution, ratified in 1791. Though there have been 27 Amendments passed in American history, only the first ten make up the Bill of Rights.
When the Constitution was being agreed upon by the states (ratified) many Antifederalists were concerned that the Constitution didn’t clearly state the rights retained by the people, so as a condition of ratifying the Constitution, Federalists agreed to include a Bill of Rights.
The Bill of Rights was written mainly by James Madison. Some Federalists like Hamilton voiced concerns that a Bill of Rights might imply that these were the *only* rights people had.
Freedom of Expression
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Right to Bare Arms
Guarantees the rights of the people to keep guns and arm themselves. This is a response to efforts of the British to take weapons belonging to militia and minutemen prior to the Revolution (think Lexington and Concord).
Though there are some legal limitations required in certain areas—i.e. waiting periods, background checks, gun locks, etc.—the rights of the people to keep and bear arms cannot be infringed.
“A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
Quartering of Troops
A direct response to the Quartering Act, the Third Amendment prohibits the government from forcing citizens to be responsible for the housing of troops in an arbitrary and unlawful way.
“No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.”
Search and Seizure
This protects people and their property from being searched by the government without a warrant. Additionally, it says that warrants should only be issues if there is probable cause and must describe the exact place that the authorities need to search and exactly for what it is that they are looking.
“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
Rights of people accused of crimes
This states that a grand jury has to find that there is a good reason to bring charges against you, with the exception of some circumstances in the military. It also prohibits “double jeopardy”, which is being tried a second time for a specific crime in which a jury already reached a not-guilty verdict. Additionally, it states that you don’t have to be a witness against yourself if you don’t want to be (“pleading the 5th”), and lastly it specifies that all citizens deserve fair treatment by the law and cannot lose their property unless they are paid fairly for it.
“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.”
Right to a Speedy Public Trial
Guarantees the right to have a trial that is made public, takes place in the area the crime was committed, to be told what you are being accused of and have a right to question witnesses against you and bring witnesses in your favor. Lastly, it guarantees the rights of someone accused of a crime to have a lawyer.
“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.”
Trial by Jury in Civil Cases
This guarantees the defendant in a civil case to have a trial in front of a jury as opposed to having a single judge make a ruling. The $20 amount has been changed to $400 in most states for one to request a jury.
“In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”
No Cruel or Unusual Punishment
Protects someone found guilty of a crime of being punished excessively by disproportionately large bail, or cruel or bizarre punishments.
“Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.”
Rights of the Individual
This simply means that you have lots of rights that aren’t listed in the Bill of Rights. You have all kinds of rights—to have kids, make dinner, cut your hair, etc.—that aren’t listed in the Bill of Rights. The Bill of Rights is the beginning of your rights, not the end of it. These ten amendments are those that Antifederalists felt needed to be clarified.
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
Rights of the States
This relates to Federalism. It specifies that unless a power is specified in the Constitution to be for the Federal government, it belongs to the states.
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
What fraction of the House and Senate are needed to propose an amendment?
What fraction of the states are needed to approve it?
How many amendments are in the Bill of Rights?
Which amendment protects freedom of speech?
Which amendment was in response the Quartering Act
If you are found guilty of a crime, what does the 8th Amendment protect you against?
Which amendment guarantees you the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney?
Remember the idea of creating a strong but limited government? Though the Constitution greatly expanded the power of the federal government, it also built in some clever ways to make sure that the power of the federal government would be restrained. Here are a few…
CHECKS CONGRESS BY
CHECKS THE SUPREME COURT BY MAKING JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS
The Supreme Court
CHECKS THE PRESIDENT AND CONGRESS BY DECLARING THEIR ACTS UNCONSTITUTIONAL
CHECKS THE SUPREME COURT BY CONFIRMING PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATIONS
Reasons for removal are treason, bribery and other serious crimes
House of Representatives brings charges against the President
Senate hears evidence.
2/3 majority of Senate
removes the President
Protects the government from interfering in citizens rights to free speech, religion, press, own guns, privacy, have a fair trial, avoid cruel or unusual punishment, etc.