Weekly Focus 10

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Congress and Their Duty to the Constitution

George Washington once said, “The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon”, which is still looked upon to this day. The United States has evolved, but has our doctrine that provides us with fundamental laws, while establishing fundamental rights.  The Constitution continues to guide us to this day, with the accordance with the President as well as Congress.

American citizens “have developed a complex relationship with the Constitution in their efforts to make sense of the gap between their urge for democracy and the undemocratic provisions of that document” (Gitelson 66). Believing in the Constitution to govern us as a whole puts faith in the system’s ability to deal with the unforeseen future. By allowing the Constitution to be changed, it allows for the Constitution to endure year after year. There are certain ways this can be done: revolution, formal amendment, interpretation, and construction. Change through revolutionary action involves starting from scratch with our current system. Otherways the constitution can be changed are through amendments. Some “proposals are not adopted because they fail to get the required number of states to ratify them” (Gitelson 55). This is done through constitutional interpretation, which attempts to apply words to different provisions. But, constitutional construction lets public officials “fill in the blank spaces left by the Constitution” (Gitelson 58). Some of these constructions are from congressional action or executive orders, and some come from customs over time. Some argue whether or not the Constitution is a living thing; whether the system has become too adaptable is in question. In all, the changes to the constitution allow for dividing authority, setting limits, and  specifying rules.

Congress as a whole is “responsible for the creation of taxing and spending policies for the nation” (Gitelson 381). Members of Congress play a role in the concept of checks and balances and therefore play a role in the executive branch. The committees and subcommittees are the way the work of Congress is done.  It is no secret that those who make up Congress are constantly voting on many issues and this can transpire to a wide range of topics.  Since no member can be knowledgeable about every single topic, the members of Congress ask each other for opinions, guidance and knowledge surrounding the topic and on how to vote. These members, in turn, are experts in certain issues, but depend on other members when it comes to other legislation.  A single vote can represent a whole arrangement of choices and the, “predicament of the legislator is that every vote is a dozen votes upon as many issues all wrapped together, tied in a verbal package, and given a number of this bill” (Gitelson 379). How large the party is a stable indicator on how the specific member will vote. “In 2012, for instance, 75.8 percent of the votes in the House were party-unity votes-votes in which a majority of Democrats oppose a majority of Republicans” (Gitelson 379). Members of Congress relish votes on controversial topics such as abortion.  January 22, 1973 changed the lives for many women when the U.S. Supreme Court made its ruling on Roe v. Wade, that “only a pregnant woman and her doctor have the legal right to make the decision about an abortion” (Schnall).  Through the 14th Amendment, no state shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law” (Gitelson), while the fifth section states that Congress may enforce, “by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article”. From the 14th Amendment, it is fair to conclude that unborn children are persons under the law. Such topics can make or break the Congressman’s reelection and that is why they are concerned  “with what future opponents may make of their floor votes” and few members of Congress vote in opposition of their districts (Gitelson 378). From an article in Ithaca, published in 2015, the “Senate passed legislation to defund Planned Parenthood and repeal the Affordable Care Act, with a 52-47 vote” (Chang). With the upcoming election happening on November 8th, the topic of Planned Parenthood and Abortion is bound to come up; with Hillary Clinton for Planned Parenthood and Donald Trump against. “The President can’t be shielded by the weighty decision he’ll finally have to make when this measure lands right on his desk…when the President picks up his pen, he’ll have a real choice to make” (Chang). This will really come into play when the new President is sworn into office and either the Senate, Congress, and citizens will be with him/her or against.  If Planned Parenthood is defunded, it will impact dropout rates for teens. In the scholarly, peer-reviewed article, “Local Access To A Planned Parenthood Clinic Linked To Reduced Dropout Rates” touches on this subject. This article offered statistics regarding how access to Planned Parenthood clinics affects dropout rates among young women and teens. The sample included white Americans, African Americans, and Hispanics. Their research shows that access to Planned Parenthood is linked to the success of many individuals, and those who live close to a clinic will have a reduced school drop-out rate. These two sources wrestle with the same idea: the idea of Planned Parenthood and abortion is a controversial subject; and whomever the next President of the United States will be will impact this subject greatly.

Provisions already made to the Constitution is how we all ended up where we are today; it has established the legitimacy of the government as well as “divided the authority within the new national government” (Gitelson 67). With this, Congress members have to decide on many issues and take note of the views of their party leaders as well as asking trusted colleagues for guidance on issues. Finally, no matter who you decide to vote for on Tuesday, go out and vote; your voice needs to be heard.

Works Cited

Chang, Ailsa. “Senate Passes Bill To Defund Planned Parenthood, Repeal Health Law.” NPR, NPR, 3 Dec. 2015, http://www.npr.org/2015/12/03/458304236/senate-expected-to-pass-bill-to-defund-planned-parenthood-repeal-health-law.

Gitelson, Alan R. et al. “Chapter 11: Congress .” “Chapter 2: Constitutional Fundamentals.”  American Government: Myths and Realities.

“Local Access To A Planned Parenthood Clinic Linked To Reduced Dropout Rates.” Perspectives On Sexual And Reproductive Health 48.3 (2016): 154-155. MEDLINE. Web. 29 Sept. 2016.

Schnall, Marianne Marianne. “HISTORY OF ABORTION.” HISTORY OF ABORTION, Simon & Schuster Inc., http://www.feminist.com/resources/ourbodies/abortion.html.

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