The secret power of an American President

The Framers separated the power of the federal government into three branches for a number of different reasons.  In part, it was a way for a rogue President, Congress, or Supreme Court to be held in check by the other two branches.

The check on the power of the President and the Supreme Court is the Congressional power of impeachment.  There is no equivalent check on the power of Congress.  Congressmen can’t be recalled, and they can’t be impeached.  Presidential vetoes can be overridden.  And the Supreme Court is institutionally incapable of restraining a determined Congress.  Search “the switch in time that saved nine.”

Under Article V, the states do have the authority to control Congress, but they successfully used it only once, when the states forced it to pass the 17th Amendment.  The language of Article V contains no reference to the President, so he has no role to play.

Or does he?

As he runs for reelection, Trump will be forced to address the issue of trillion dollar annual deficits and a $22 trillion national debt.  What’s his plan to fix it?  If he couldn’t do anything with a Republican Congress for at least two years, why should anyone believe he’ll do anything about it in a second term?

We know what he wants  —  the line item veto.  But that requires an amendment to the Constitution, which Congress will never propose.  What’s he to do?

He could go to the six Republican-controlled state legislatures that have not passed an Article V Balanced Budget Amendment Resolution, and ask for these Republican state legislators to give him a line item veto.  They wouldn’t say no.  They’re the most pro-Trump politicians in the country.

Part of the problem with campaigning for a Balanced Budget Amendment is that nobody knows what it would look like.  Once the Amendment Convention is called, they can propose any amendment that helps balance the budget.

President Trump can make clear that he is only campaigning and supporting a line item veto.  That, in itself, will be sufficient.  He can make clear that he will work to assure ratification of the line item veto.  Not necessarily for anything else.

For the President’s secret power is political, not legal or constitutional.  He is the leader of the country.  He has the ability to explain Article V to the people, and describe how it is the only constitutional means to rein in Congress.

If the Democrats take the House, the logic of this argument becomes overwhelming.  Like Truman in 1948, he can run against Congress, and for the use of Article V to bring it under control.

And everybody hates Congress.

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