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CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE BY OTHER MEANS. American Government Chapter 3-3. Non-wording Changes. Some changes to the Constitution do not involve the written word 1) The passage of basic legislation by Congress 2) actions take by the President 3) key decisions of the Supreme Court

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constitutional change by other means


American Government

Chapter 3-3

non wording changes
Non-wording Changes
  • Some changes to the Constitution do not involve the written word
  • 1) The passage of basic legislation by Congress
  • 2) actions take by the President
  • 3) key decisions of the Supreme Court
  • 4) the activities of political parties
  • 5) custom
basic legislation
Basic Legislation
  • Congress has passed a number of laws to spell out several brief provisions of the Constitution
  • Substance has been added to provisions that were intentionally left vague
  • Example: Article III Section 1 says the Constitution provides for “one supreme court, and … such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.”
basic legislation1
Basic Legislation
  • Article II creates only the offices of President and Vice President. All other departments and offices have been created by Congress.
  • XXVth Amendment says that if the office of President is vacant the Vice President automatically succeeds to the office. Who becomes President if both offices are vacant? Congress has the power to decide that
  • (show succession on Internet)
executive action
Executive Action
  • Congress can declare war but the President is Commander-in-chief
  • Several Presidents have made war without a Congressional declaration of war
  • Executive Agreement—Pact made by the President directly with the head of a foreign state (no Congressional approval required)
  • Treaty—A formal agreement between two or more sovereign states (Senate must approve)
court decisions
Court Decisions
  • Federal courts, mainly the Supreme Court, interpret and apply the Constitution in many cases that they hear.
  • “The Supreme Court is a constitutional convention in continuous session” –President Woodrow Wilson
party practices
Party Practices
  • Most Framers were opposed to political parties
  • Political parties have turned the Electoral College into a “rubber stamp” for each State’s popular vote in presidential elections
  • Both houses of Congress are organized and conduct business by party
  • Government in the USA is in many ways government through party
  • Unwritten custom may be as strong as written law.
  • By custom, not because the Constitution says so, the heads of the executive departments make up the CABINET, an advisory body to the President.
  • On the 8 occasions when the President died in office, most recently when LBJ took over for JFK (1963), the Vice President took over.
  • Until 1967, the Constitution said only that the powers and duties of the presidency—not the office itself—should be transferred to the Vice President
  • “No third-term tradition”—This began in 1796. Presidents would not seek a 3rd term. FDR broke tradition in 1940 & 1944 by seeking a 3rd & 4th term
  • XXIInd Amendment made 2 terms the maximum.