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Untrodden GroundHow Presidents Interpret the Constitution$
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Harold H. Bruff

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226211107

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226211244.001.0001

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The Constitution

(p.11) Chapter One Responsibility
Untrodden Ground

Harold H. Bruff

University of Chicago Press

This chapter considers how an eighteenth century Constitution has adapted to a twenty-first century state. In important places, the constitutional text is flexible, with room to change as conditions do. At the Constitutional Convention, the framers reacted to both prevailing political theory and their own practical experience by adopting a separation of powers along with checks to maintain an overall balance of power. They did not grant the President explicit emergency powers. Important sources of presidential power are political independence from Congress, eligibility for reelection, and the qualified veto. The Senate checks nominations and treaties. Controversial provisions in Article II have been the vesting clause, the commander in chief clause, and the faithful execution clause. Presidents have given these clauses their present meaning. The President’s roles as head of state and party leader were not considered by the framers, but have influenced presidential constitutional interpretation throughout our history.

Keywords:   Constitutional Convention, separation of powers, vesting clause, commander in chief, faithful execution, emergency powers, veto

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