Monday, December 05, 2016

Can Congress "Trump" Trump

 When our forefathers created the constitution, they feared the concentration of power in one entity. They created a system of check and balances by weaving the separation of powers into our Constitution through the creation of the executive, judiciary and congressional branches. With Donald Trump winning the Presidency some people fear Trump will hurt our foreign policy and national security interests abroad. Since Congress was created to, impart, check the Executive’s power, it makes sense that Congress could stop him, but can Congress actually hinder Trump’s plans? In all actuality, Congress can do little to prevent Trump from ideas such as building a wall or placing ground troops in Syria. Below are listed possible ways that Congress can attempt to trump Trump’s policies and these checks’ effectiveness. The effectiveness takes into consideration the actual impact as well as the probability that Congress will use these powers.

1.  War Powers Resolution of 1973- Low Effectiveness: Congress passed the War Powers Resolution after the Vietnam War with the aim to check the President’s ability to send troops into armed conflict. The Resolution demands the President must seek Congressional approval of committing ground forces into armed conflicted after 60 days of deployment.  However, the executive branch feels this Resolution is an over-step on Congress’s part and never follows it. President Clinton refused to ask Congress for the bombing campaigns in former Yugoslavia and President Obama never asked for permission for his bombing campaigns in Libya. There is hope, though, that putting thousands of troops on the ground may force Congress to attempt to invoke this right, but the President could just ignore Congress’s demand.  
2.   Impeachment High Effectiveness: Congress can impeach the President based on former or present illegal charges on the President. The United States Congress can try any high-ranking government official. The House calls for the investigation and the Senate convicts. In the past, Congress began the impeachment process for only three Presidents: Nixon, Andrew Johnson, and Bill Clinton. However, the Senate convicted none. Since this act is rarely used and no one President actually ever convicted, it is high unlikely Congress will go this far with President Trump.
3. Congressional Investigations- Medium Effectiveness: Congress reserves the right to formally investigate any action or situation taken by the U.S. government and its officials. If Donald Trump decides to take any disproving actions, like helping Russia bombers in Syria, not helping an NATO ally consequences, or commits a security violation that has detrimental, Congress can began an investigation. Due to how the Iran-Contra investigation hurt Reagan's Administration and the Benghazi investigation damaged Hillary Clinton’s chances at presidency, the President-elect may think twice about overstepping Congress’s opinion in fear of an investigation.
4.     Power of the Purse- Low to Medium Effectiveness: The Constitution places the appropriation of money into Congress’s pocket. This means all the money for Trump’s plans must come from Congress, and Congress can decide to not fund Trump’s endeavors. It is highly unlikely to this nations focus on military and Industrial Military Complex that Congress would ever cut military funding, but Congress may cut funding for some of Trump’s other projects. For example, after the latest START treaty, Congress floated around a bill that would essentially not allow any congressional funding to be used for the new START bill, which would make the bill ineffective. Congress can use the threat of hurting Trumps pet projects like building a wall to get Trump to listen more.
5.     Stalling Senate Confirmations High Effectiveness: The Senate must approve most of Donald Trump’s cabinet, Supreme Court Justice, Attorney General, and Ambassador positions. The Senate stalled appointments this in the past, such as President Obama’s Supreme Court Justice and Cuban Ambassador picks. By not allowing or stalling certain confirmations, Congress can put a wrench in Donald Trump’s agendas regarding his appointees and the policies they were going to help him push through, such as throwing away the Iran Deal. However, since the Republicans hold the majority in the Senate, it is
unlikely they will go against Trump by stalling confirmations.
Though there are currently only miniscule to checks Trump’s power, there have been rumblings in the past by Congress to attempt to pass more legislation to check the President’s power. One such case rumbling is repealing the War Powers Act and replacing it with a more stringent act that would give Congress more of a say in deploying forcers. Congress could build on this idea to pass more laws to check Trumps power. But, the question then is “are we willing to give Congress all that extra power and throw-off the balance of power just to protect ourselves from Trump?”

1 comment:

Ian Inkster said...

The real problem is that - especially in matters of foreign policy intervention - the notion of checks to the President through separation of powers, must finally depend on real and present quarrelsome discourse between the three branches of government. It may be that the President can not control the other two branches technically, but if Congress agrees with him and the Supreme Court is composed of just one or two key individuals, (at present one new appointment could be enough) the outrageous decisions can slide through. The commanding present case is Taiwan and China and the challenge to the 'one China' compromise. Given a background of commercial irritation between China and the US, where the US really does seem to need some major concessions relating to Chinese commercial power, then we can imagine decisions at the legislative and judicial working in conformity with that of the White House.
This is not abstraction. Whether historical curbing of Presidents has arisen primarily from the Constitution as such or from the separation of powers in particular, there is every indication that the political culture of the US now allows for untoward results - institutional process may be kept to but a maverick President might win a case against the welfare of the American people. In the present instance the small island of Taiwan looks of little matter to many in Congress, using it once more as a pawn in a great power game is becoming more likely.
Ian Inkster SOAS, London.