Student's Guide to Landmark Congressional Laws on Social Security and Welfare

By Steven G. Livingston | Go to book overview

Series Foreword

Most of the Founding Fathers who met at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 probably anticipated that the legislative branch would be the most powerful of the three branches of the national government that they created. For all practical purposes, this was the only branch of government with which the onetime colonists had experience under the Articles of Confederation. Moreover, the delegates discussed this branch first and at greatest length at the convention, the dispute over representation in this body was one of the convention's most contentious issues, and the Founding Fathers made it the subject of the first and longest article of the new Constitution.

With the president elected indirectly through an electoral college and the members of the Supreme Court appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate and serving for life terms, the framers of the Constitution had little doubt that Congress— and especially the House of Representatives, whose members were directly elected by the people for short two-year terms—would be closest to the people. As a consequence, they invested Congress with the awesome “power of the purse” that had been at issue in the revolutionary dispute with Great Britain, where the colonists' position had been encapsulated in the phrase “no taxation without representation.” The framers also entrusted Congress with the more general right to adopt laws to carry out a variety of enumerated powers and other laws “necessary and proper” to the implementation of these powers—the basis for the doctrine of implied powers.

-vii-

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