By MARTHA LEONORA OWRE
Special to The Eagle
The checks and balances in the United States Constitution are reflected in the interaction between the executive branch that carries out our laws, the legislative branch that creates laws and the judicial branch that interprets laws. No branch is to become more powerful than the other branches and all branches are designed to check each other to protect the rights of the individual.
Americans long have been sensitive to the issue of protecting the rights of individuals. They believed America had suffered from an abuse of power by the king of England and the English Parliament and were determined that abuse of power never again would become an issue.
Influenced by the philosophy of John Locke, Americans affirmed the idea that all human beings had inalienable rights, that a government’s power was derived from the consent of the governed, and if this power was abused, the people could change or abolish the government.
To prevent any such abuse of power, our Constitution was written so that no one branch of the government could function without another. For example, only Congress can pass a bill, but the president signs the bill into law. If the president vetoes a bill, Congress can override the veto. The president can negotiate treaties, but only with two-thirds agreement from the Senate. The president appoints Supreme Court justices, but the Senate must approve the appointment.
With these checks and balances in place, the branches must work together to govern.
Although the framers of the Constitution inserted checks and balances to protect individual rights and prevent the abuse of power by any branch of the government, history since has shed light on practices that are not considered acceptable by today’s standards. The balance of power in the Constitution allows flexibility to change these practices, as does the process of amending the Constitution.
Starting Thursday, the United States celebrates Constitution Week. Take time to study the Constitution and become familiar with the checks and balances that have been part of this document since it was signed in 1787.
Martha Leonora Owre is honorary regent of the La Villita Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
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