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CHAPTER VI.

OF THE MANNER OF EXERCISING THE LEGISLATIVE POWER.

THE two houses possess co-equal powers in regard to originating laws, except those for raising revenue. which originate only in the house of representatives, but the senate may propose or concur with amendments as in other bills. Some doubts have existed as to the policy, or at least the necessity of this exception. It is introduced, however, into most of the state constitutions, and may be founded on the utility of keeping this frequent subject of legislation in a regular system, in order that public credit may not be impaired by the suggestion of discordant plans, or needless innovations. In addition to which, it was probably supposed that the members of the house of representatives, coming more frequently from the body of the people, and from their numbers combining a greater variety of character and employment, would be better qualified to judge not only of the necessity, but also of the methods of raising revenue.

On all other subjects, a bill may originate in either house, and after having been fully considered, it is sent to the other. If amendments are proposed, the bill is sent back for concurrence. If the two houses disagree, either to the bill, as originally trained, or as amended, a conference usually takes place, and if neither house will recede, the bill is lost. It is not usual to bring forward another bill on the same subject during the same session, but it may be done, as it is a mere matter of parliamentary regulation, and not prohibited by the Constitution.

When a bill has passed both houses, it is presented to the president, and his share of the legislative duty commences, but it is wisely and prudently guarded. If he possessed the right of imposing an absolute negative, it would vest in him too great a power. If he sent back the bill, with or without its reasons for refusing his assent, and the same numbers that originally passed it, were still sufficient to give it the effect of a law, the reference to him would be an empty form. It is therefore most judiciously provided, that not only every bill which has passed both houses, but every order, resolution, or vote, on which the concurrence of both is necessary, except on questions of adjournment, may, if not approved by him, be returned with his objections to the house in which it originated. These objections are to be entered at large on their journal, and the house is then to proceed to reconsider the bill or resolution; if after such reconsideration, two-thirds of that house shall agree to pass the bill or resolution, it shall be sent, together with the objections, to the other house, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two-thirds of that house also, the bill becomes a law, and the resolution becomes absolute. But in all such cases, the votes of both houses shall be determined by yeas and nays, and entered on the journals. While this great share of the legislative power is given to the president, it would be improper to leave it to him indefinitely to exercise it, without some control in point of time, and therefore it is provided that if such bill or resolution, are not returned by him within ten days, (Sundays excepted,) the resolution shall take effect, or the bill shall become a law, unless congress by their adjournment prevent it; a consideration which ought to induce the two houses, whenever it if possible, to prepare matters of importance in either shape, for the consideration of the president, at least ten days before the time of their adjournment, otherwise, and particularly when the duration of the session is limited, measures of high interest may be frustrated for a season.

We might here draw a comparison much to our advantage between our system and those of the European monarchies, where the absolute negative of the king depends solely on his own will and pleasure, or on the other hand, with those ancient republics in which the chief executive magistrates did not in the smallest degree participate in the legislative power. Our scheme judiciously steers a middle course. Laws do not originate with the president, although it is his duty to recommend subjects for consideration when the public good requires it; but as laws may be unadvisedly and too precipitately passed even by a double legislature, it may be often salutary to call them to a reconsideration of their measures, and by requiring the objections to be entered on the journal, and the yeas and nays to be recorded, the people, who are the ultimate judges, are enabled to decide on the soundness of conduct on the part of all. The remedy takes place at the next election.


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