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College to host Constitution Day talk on presidential powers

Barry McNamara
09/17/2018
MONMOUTH, Ill. – Presidential powers and constraints will be discussed by three Monmouth College political science professors to commemorate this year’s Constitution Day.

Titled “Article II: Checks and Balances and Presidential Powers,” the discussion will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 24 in the Morgan Room of Poling Hall, located one building west of Wallace Hall. It is free and open to the public.

A federal observance that recognizes the adoption of the U.S. Constitution, Constitution Day is formally observed on Sept. 17, the date in 1787 when delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document in Philadelphia.

At the Monmouth event, professors Andre Audette, Farhat Haq and Jessica Vivian will each give a short presentation on topics that will include limits to the president’s powers and whether the 25th Amendment of the Constitution can be used to remove the president.

Audette will introduce Article II of the Constitution, which spells out executive branch powers, and outline the debate and interpretation of powers laid out in it. Vivian will discuss reasons behind expansion of presidential power and avenues for potential limitations of power. Haq will focus on the 25th Amendment – what the amendment, which was adopted in 1967, says and the politics behind its potential use for removing the president.

Audette said that the U.S. presidency through most of the 19th century looked very different than it does today in terms of presidential powers.

“Presidents weren’t as active,” he said. “Over time, their power has increased substantially, taking powers away from Congress. The presidency now looks very different from how the framers of the Constitution intended it.”

A prime example of that power shift is the War Powers Act.

“Really, the last war that was declared by Congress was World War II,” said Audette. “Everything since has been a presidential action, not an act of Congress.”

Vivian cited several other examples where the president seemingly acts without the advice and consent of Congress.

“Today, the president can impose tariffs on China or other countries, can declare war and has his hand on the nuclear button,” said Vivian. “How did that happen? How did we get here? And what would it take to re-impose limits on presidential powers? Those are some of the issues we’ll be discussing.”

Haq said politics today “is testing the resilience of our constitution.”

“For many, the presidency of Donald Trump has shaken our constitutional foundations,” she said. “Those who oppose President Trump see him as an existential threat to democratic norms. Those who support President Trump see the talk of impeachment or invoking the 25th Amendment as an unfair ploy to delegitimize his presidency.”