In this episode of Constitutionally Speaking, Jay and Luke take on the myth that our government is one of “co-equal branches.” In fact, the Founding Fathers created a Congress-centered government. It is the legislature that, if it willed it, could dominate the executive and the judiciary. The tricky part is the will of the legislature. By separating legislative authority among two chambers, and giving the president a veto that can only be overridden by a two-thirds majority, the Framers made it hard for the legislature to find the will to act.
The design of Congress thus reflects their mixed views about democracy — it is both essential to and dangerous for republican government. The Framers reckoned that, when a supermajority in Congress exists, the chances are good that it is a true reflection of the public interest. When a congressional majority is narrower, they feared it may be a self-interested faction that needs to checked by one of the other branches. So, Congress is the beast … that usually slumbers.