Chapter 3 Section 3: Change by Other Means
Over time, many adjustmentshave been made in the Constitution that have not involved any changes in its written words. There are five ways that the Constitution can be changed without having to write a formal amendment: Congress can pass basic legislation The President can take certain actions The Supreme Court can make key decisions Actions taken by Political Parties Customs and social changes in America
1. Congress can Pass Basic Legislation Congress has been a major agent of constitutional change in two important ways. 1. Congress has passed many laws to clarify the Constitution. For example the 25th Amendment says that if the President cannot perform his duties, the Vice President automatically takes over. The amendment does not explain who would take over if both the President and Vice President were unable to perform their duties???? Therefore, Congress has the power to determine who is next in line to become President after the Vice President. 2. Sometimes the Constitution does not specifically explain a power that is given to Congress. In these cases, Congress gets to decide what powers they have and how they can use them.
The President can take certain actions Sometimes, presidents expand their powers by taking action in crucial situations. For example, The Constitution states that only Congress can declare war. But the Constitution also makes the President the commander in chief of the nations armed forces. Acting under that authority, several Presidents have made war without a declaration of war by Congress. The Supreme Court can make key decisions The Supreme Court has the power to interpret and apply the Constitution. Marbury V. Madison in 1803 is the most famous example of this power. The Supreme Court established the power of judicial review (this is not mentioned in the Constitution).
4. Actions taken by Political Parties Even though the Constitution does not mentions them, the nation’s political parties have been a major agent of constitutional change over the course of our political history. Form example, the political parties have shaped the electoral college system of electing our president. Custom & Social Change in America There are many unwritten customs that have developed in our governmental system. For example, it is a custom that the heads of the 15 executive departments make up the Cabinet (which is an advisory body to the President).