Protecting the Constitution/ Separation of Powers

Q96: What is your plan to protect the U. S. Constitution by ensuring that the separation of federal powers is preserved by all three levels of government—
executive, legislative and judicial?

Biden: The American people do not want, and our Constitution will not abide, a president who rules by fiat and demands obedience. I served in the executive branch of our government for eight years, but I served in the legislative branch for 36 prior to that, and I understand better than anyone that the system will not hold unless we find ways to work together to advance our national interests — not the political interests of one person or one party. We need to restore the balance of powers between the branches of government. We need checks and balances that actually serve to check and balance the worst impulses of our leaders — in any branch. We need to use our system to bring us together as a nation — not abuse it to rip us apart. That’s not a naïve or outdated way of thinking. That’s the genius and timelessness of our democratic system, which has, for more than 240 years, allowed us to remake ourselves, reckon with our shortcomings, and move ever forward.

Bloomberg : Ensuring that the separation of powers is preserved and respected requires a strong Department of Justice to uphold the rule of law, a President guided by the rule of law, and an administration that respects the proper role of the Judiciary and legislative branches as equals. As President, Mike will appoint an U.S. Attorney General with a track record that reflects these values, make judicial appointments according to these values, and observe the tradition of respecting all three branches of government.

Buttigeig: The Constitution makes clear that the President is not above the law, and respecting the rule of law is a foundation of true American greatness. Where we have veered off course and strayed from our guiding principles, we must acknowledge this and seek to do better. Separation of powers is written into our Constitution in order to protect against any one person—or one branch of government—from gaining unfettered power. As President, I will follow the rules set by Congress even if I disagree with what Congress has mandated, unless Congress acts unlawfully, in ways that exceed its authorities or create conflicts with other constitutional rules.

As President, I will be explicit about the source of any disagreement with Congress over the extent of my Commander-in-Chief authority. I will be clear as to why I considered that Congress’s attempted actions exceeded its authority, violated constitutional rights, or encroached on my constitutional authorities and obligations. I will be clear about these concerns as early as possible in the legislative process, so as to give Congress ample opportunity to address them. And I will not act inconsistently with Congress’ mandates secretly, in ways designed to conceal such actions from lawmakers. As President, I will fulfill my duty to faithfully execute the laws passed by the representatives of the people, and I will be transparent about the kinds of actions that I believe are both critical to keeping the nation safe and within my exclusive authority as Commander-in-Chief.

In addition, a nonpartisan Supreme Court is essential to a functioning democracy. Its rulings have to be followed by politicians, lower courts, and everyday Americans alike. If the Supreme Court comes to be seen as just another partisan instrument, our constitutional balance of powers and the very legitimacy of the rule of law are threatened. I am committed to creating a bipartisan commission for the purpose of recommending structural reforms to the Supreme Court so that Americans can have faith in it again. I will also nominate qualified, independent judges with impeccable personal integrity who will fairly interpret our laws.

De La Fuente: To adhere to the laws and standards defined by our Constitution and the law.

Klobuchar: Senator Klobuchar believes we must take urgent action to reverse the harm President Trump has done to his office by openly flaunting the rule of law. She will instruct the Justice Department to withdraw the Office of Legal Counsel’s opinions prohibiting the indictment of a sitting president. She will also make it clear that the President and Vice President have to follow conflict of interest laws and require the President and major candidates for President to make their tax returns publicly available.

In addition, Senator Klobuchar believes that accountability starts at the top, and that there must be the highest ethical standards for White House employees and other senior officials. Senator Klobuchar will strengthen investigations of foreign agents who lobby in the United States, give the Office of Government Ethics more enforcement power and provide additional protections for all Special Counsels. She will also publicly post executive branch ethics waivers and report senior officials’ conflicts of interest in rulemaking. Read more about Senator Klobuchar’s plan to safeguard our elections, strengthen our democracy and restore trust in government here: in-ca2360918c7d

Sanders: As a Senator, Bernie has worked tirelessly to ensure the separation of powers, especially with regards to the authorization of force. He recently introduced a piece of legislation with bipartisan support to deny any funds for a disastrous war with Iran. He believes the House and the Senate must act quickly to advance legislation that reasserts Congress’s constitutional authority over war. We must prohibit any funding for offensive military force in or against Iran without authorization.

Steyer: America has lost touch with one of its founding principles: a democracy of, by, and for the people. Our system isn’t working for real people, because it’s been corrupted by corporate influence, a lack of political transparency, and partisan efforts to suppress voter participation for their own benefit. Here’s how we’re going to put power back in the capable hands of the American people through tangible, meaningful reform.

Repeal Citizens United
Corporations aren’t people, and they shouldn’t be controlling our politics. The Supreme Court decision in Citizens United must be overturned and the public financing of campaigns becomes the law of the land.

Restructure the Federal Election Commission (FEC)
The FEC is an independent agency that oversees our elections — but it has been plagued by internal dysfunction. We will reform the broken FEC by making necessary changes to its budget, commissioner composition, independence from other branches of government, and penalty enforcement.

Limit Congressional Terms
There’s a widespread perception that the longer an elected official serves in Congress, the less connected they are to their constituents — and the more beholden they become to corporate interests and lobbyists. We propose a term limit of 12 total years that would allow our elected officials in both the House and Senate to focus less on getting re-elected and more on doing what’s right.

Increase Voter Participation with a National Referendum
Voters should feel that their voices count, and should be more directly involved in deciding important issues that affect their lives. We plan to have bills introduced in both the House and Senate to establish a national referendum process, establish an office to implement and oversee this process, and develop criteria to place no more than two key issues annually before the national electorate to vote on. This process would increase voter participation, thwart congressional gridlock, and give the American people more power over their democracy.

Initiate a Vote-At-Home System
A Vote At Home system would make voting more convenient by providing voters with postage-paid absentee ballots, and would allow voters more time to participate in our democracy, as well as increase overall election security.

Support Important Election Reform Legislation
The For the People Act (HR 1), the Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the Native American Voting Rights Act need to be signed into law immediately.

Establish Independent Redistricting Commissions
When partisan elected officials draw district lines, the electoral maps they draw rig the system in their favor and attempt to suppress and dilute the votes in communities of color. We need independent, non-partisan redistricting commissions to draw these boundaries, and eliminate racial gerrymandering.

Warren: Our Constitution is built on the principle of separation of powers in order to prevent a dictator, an autocrat, from taking control of our government. This separation of powers is part of the brilliance of our Constitution, and it has served us well for centuries. We say there are powers that are given to the president, powers that are given to Congress, powers that are given to the judiciary, and each operates as a check on the other.

Our democracy only works if everyone can be held accountable. Congress should make it clear that presidents can be indicted for criminal activity, including obstruction of justice. And when I’m president, I’ll appoint Justice Department officials who will reverse flawed policies so no president is shielded from criminal accountability, and I’ve called on Congress to pass a law clarifying Congress’ intent that the Department of Justice can indict the president of the United States and to amend obstruction of justice statutes to explicitly allow for indictment when the president abuses the powers of the office. I have also supported bipartisan legislation in Congress that would protect a special counsel from being fired or removed unilaterally by a president.

Oversight and transparency are also essential to preserving our system of checks and balances, and I believe the United States federal government should be as transparent as possible to the American public. In limited circumstances, protecting a president’s internal deliberations better facilitates sound decision-making and ensures workable government. But this privilege must not be abused. I have proposed legislation to close the loopholes in our open records laws that allow federal officials to hide corporate influence. It includes codifying the default presumption of disclosure and affirmatively disclose records of public interest, and would strengthen FOIA enforcement by limiting exemptions and loopholes, and by giving the National Archives the authority to overrule agency FOIA decisions and to compel disclosure. It would also extend FOIA to private-sector federal contractors.

And we also need to hold our courts to the highest ethical standards. A basic principle of our federal judicial system is that judges make decisions as disinterested, impartial observers – stepping aside when they may not be able to decide cases objectively. Our judiciary only functions properly when it lives up to this promise, and it risks eroding its legitimacy when the American people lose faith that judges are ethical and fair-minded. That’s why I have a plan to strengthen the ethical integrity and impartiality of the federal judiciary. It’s time to ensure that judges do not hear cases where they have conflicts of interests, strengthen our nation’s ethics rules for judges, and ensure accountability for judges who violate these rules.