Each September, Americans celebrate Constitution Day. On Sept. 17, 1787, our Founding Fathers signed the U.S. Constitution, the most sacred document in our nation’s history. The Constitution established the three branches of our government and still to this day protects the rights of each American citizen. In the Senate, I work to uphold the intent of the Constitution every day. As President Abraham Lincoln once said, “Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.”
As a member of the legislative branch, our constitutional role is to write laws — we do not have the power or authority to enforce laws or interpret the laws. Those powers were given to the executive branch and the judicial branch, respectively, when the founders wrote the Constitution. Their goal was to create a separation of powers, so no one branch of government could accumulate more power than the other two.
A system of checks and balances was created to prevent tyranny. Keep in mind, colonists first came to America to escape tyrannical rule. So, when our Founding Fathers sought to establish a new government, they worked to make sure power could not be concentrated by an individual or even a few people. As an example of our system of checks and balances, the president has the authority to nominate federal judges and other executive branch officials, but he cannot simply “hire” them. They go through a thorough vetting process in the Senate to establish their qualifications for the job to which they have been nominated, including a full committee hearing, before senators take a vote on their confirmation.
I often think about the deliberations and challenges our Founding Fathers experienced when they were drafting the Constitution. They had differing beliefs and opinions about what the future United States should look like. But at the end of the day, they worked together, indulged the views of their colleagues and wrote the framework for our system of government that has lasted more than 200 years.
We can learn a lot from our Founding Fathers. In our current divided government, Republicans and Democrats disagree with each other daily. That doesn’t mean we can’t work to find bipartisan solutions to the problems we face as a nation. In fact, we do work together on many issues, most of the time! If we have a common goal, we can work together, and the one commonality we all share is that we’re Americans first and foremost.
We want to leave our country in better shape for future generations. We may just have different ideas about how to do it, and that’s alright. Like our Founding Fathers, I will continue to seek to build consensus, uphold the rights of American citizens as outlined in the Constitution and work to pass legislation that preserves the greatness of our nation for years to come.