What is the proper balance of power between Congress & the presidency?

Sort of a followup to this thread. I don’t think anyone would dispute that the relative power and importance of the presidency vis-a-vis Congress have grown enormous since the Republic was founded, and few would dispute the presidency/executive branch now is much more powerful than the Framers envisioned. How far back the trend goes is debatable, but certainly the roots of the “imperial presidency” go back at least as far as Lincoln.

Should this trend be arrested or reversed?

If so, how?

What is the constitutionally proper balance of power between the executive and legislative branches?

What is the best balance – not in constitutional-law terms, but in public-policy terms? I.e., is a strong Congress or a strong president better for America?

Does it make a difference that Congress is generally acknowledged to be the more “democratic” branch?

This is, interestingly, not a partisan/ideological question in the usual sense. There are ideological aspects to, say, the relative importance of the federal vs. the state governments. Within the federal government, however, it’s generally a matter of practical political calculation. Each party typically demands more power for whichever branch it happens to control at the moment, and will readily reverse its proclaimed theories of constitutional construction as soon as a new election changes its position. Neither the Dems nor the Pubs have any consistent theory that would mandate favoring Congress or the presidency in all circumstances.

I think Congress should have much more power than the president, as it represents the citizenry much more accurately. I also think that too much tax money is going to the federal government, and that not enough is usually going to local governments. The most important functions of our government are conducted (or should be conducted) at the local level, like providing public education, and distributing welfare or medical assistance.

Anyway, I digressed from the topic here. Congress has to answer to the voters more frequently (as a whole) than Presidents do, meaning that they typically show more restraint than Presidents when it comes to doing something that could prove to be unpopular. Because of this, the president should be able to check the powers of congress, but shouldn’t have many powers of his own in my opinion.

Most of the powers of the Prez should come from Congress, as they create the laws he is supposed to execute. As such the Prez should answer to the Congress in most cases.

Some of the issues in the US Civil War involved the unequal way Congress represented the nation as a whole, due to their regional loyalties. (Trade tariffs that effect only the southern states, for example.) The President is supposed to act as a check on some of the more unfair legislation, although he can be overridden with a supermajority…

Raising taxes is generally not a popular idea with some or most constituents, but they do it anyway. Typically, they attempt to jusify the new taxes by promising something in return. Sometimes, they will be able to provide something that is paid for by a tax/tariff that is predominantly paid for by folks other than his constituents.

“Pork” stems from this idea. A Congresscritter from low population districts are able to get infrastructure funds, or grants for “studies”, that provide jobs for his district.

I agree in a general way with this, but there should be oversight abilities to ensure that Federally supplied education money, for example, is being spent on education. If a state’s education system was piss-poor, and they refused to fix it (because of possible corruption), should the Feds just throw more money down the drain?

Well, that depends on who was in the office(s) at a particular moment. I would say that a “honest, principled, honorable” Congress and President would be better for America.

Reasonable people can reach accomodations and compromises that all can at least live with, usually.

But the way that the two political parties in the US, at present, are struggling for power (in both the Executive and Legislative branches) and polarising the constituents is frustrating to me.

But I have no real answer to fixing that.

There isn’t one. Competing political parties – something the Framers never envisioned – are indispensable to democratic government; no modern democracy has found a way to get along without them, save by banning them, and that always means a de facto dictatorship. Even “nonpartisan” local elections are usually partisan in practice.

Hmm. Would the hate and vitriol be part of the FF’s plan?

Sigh. Why can’t we all get along. :frowning:

Maybe it just seems worse to me than it used to be.

Well, the bit about struggling for power is essential to the functioning of checks and balances. As Madison put it, Let ambition counter ambition.

I think the problem is that the Congress in recent years has lacked any ambition to counter an executive reaching for more power. I’m sure Bush and those on the other side of the issue point to the post-Watergate period and saw Congress pushing its powers to the limit and the presidency was too weak to counter. I think some amount of struggling for power in each of the branches is what makes the system work better.

And as far as what that means for polarizing constituents, I don’t think there is any way that Americans will ever be happy with their government. For example, it is the very nature of Congress to bicker and swap favors – those in Congress would call it “honest debate” and “working across party lines.” I think Americans plain don’t like it when people disagree, and the foundation of our governmental system is that people are supposed to disagree and argue about everything. That can’t make for a happy public.

Oh, there was plenty of that in late-18th-Century America. It was just more literate and high-toned.

Yeah. You two (BrainGlutton and Ravenman) make good points.

Talk of relative power is a little abstract. I need to get it down to specifics, and I think that, principally, none of the three branches of government should have the power (or privilege or authority or whatever you want to call it) to withhold information regarding public policy (policy making, policy execution, whatever) from any other branch. That means no executive privilege to deny congressional committees access to government officials for testimony, records, conversations, analysis, etc.

Yes, there might be a place for “national security,” but it should not be the province of any one branch to decide what information should be kept secret for that purpose. Congress gets to define what national security is and the conditions under which information can be withheld; the executive gets to make decisions pursuant to such statutes; congress gets to inquire about such decisions; the judiciary gets to demand evidence of such decisions and test whether such decisions comport with statute and the constitution.

What about the executive’s authority to investigate Congresscritters for wrongdoing (cf. William Jefferson)? What’s the proper limit to that?

I think allowing mutual investigation is desirable. If the executive misuses its power of investigation and prosecution, then the legislature should have the power to investigate such misuse and initiate prosecution.

The way I read the constitution the original idea was that congress decides what is to be done and the presidents decides how to carry out congress’ wishes.

I don’t think that history has quite developed that way but I think it was a good idea.