Patricia A. O'Malley
Social Policy & Programs Consulting ~ Community Matters
P.O. Box 97803 ~ Pittsburgh, PA 15227 ~ 412-310-4886 ~ email@example.com
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Social Policy & Programs Consulting
Training and Services for agencies working toward social and economic justice
Advanced Quiz Answers
These are the answers to the Community Matters Advanced Civics Quiz.
January 4, 2018
1. Explain why secession is legal.
Most Americans believe that the U.S. Constitution prohibits secession. It does not. Most Americans believe that the Civil War settled the secession question permanently. Wrong again.
The Constitution does not contain a single word about secession.
However, the Tenth Amendment says:
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
That means that the states can do whatever they want, unless the Constitution prohibits it.
The Constitution does not prohibit secession. Therefore, secession is legal.
The Civil War did not settle the matter. The union and confederate states were deadlocked until South Carolina troops fired on the federal Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor in 1861. That’s when the war started. Otherwise, the political and economic situation may have been resolved without a war.
In 1869, the Supreme Court declared secession unconstitutional in a Texas case. However, the court’s decision relied on trivial arguments and the discarded Articles of Confederation instead of on Constitutional principles.
2. What parts of the Constitution authorize public assistance programs?
Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 states:
The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
That’s called the “general welfare clause”. General welfare does not mean “welfare”, as in public assistance.
It means that Congress has the power to make any laws it deems to be in the best interest of the nation. At various
times in our history, Congress has decided that public assistance programs, public education, a national highway system,
and other features are in our best interest.
Clause 18 gives Congress the power:
To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other
Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.
So Congress has decided that public assistance programs are in our best interest, and have made laws to implement them
3. How did the commerce clause affect the civil rights movement?
Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 gives Congress the power:
To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
During the Civil Rights Movement, the U.S. Justice Department took the position that the commerce clause gave them the
authority to force local businesses to serve black customers when the business was engaged in interstate commerce.
When the mostly small and local businesses objected, the Justice Department claimed that if the businesses obtained any
of their products, supplies, equipment, customers, etc. through other states, they were engaged in interstate commerce.
And the Supreme Court agreed. Thus, Jim Crow died.
4. What was the Supreme Court's basis for its ruling that the Constitution protects marriage equality?
On June 26, 2015 the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case Obergefell v Hodges that the Equal Protection clause
of the Fourteenth Amendment protects the right of same-sex couples to marry, just as it protects the marriage rights of
The United States Constitution. Article VI, Section 2 says:
This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or
which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in
every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.
That means that federal law beats state law. Every time.
The Fourteenth Amendment, Section 2, says:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States;
nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person
within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
That means that every law in every state must apply to all of the people.
The Court’s ruling affects only marriage licenses. It means that any state which issues marriage licenses, must issue them
to all couples who apply. The states may not refuse licenses to same-sex couples. States can still make any laws they
like about the rights and benefits of marriage, but those laws must pertain to all married couples. States are free to
abolish all marriage licensing laws if they like.
5. True or False? The Constitution requires the U.S. to use capitalism as its economic system.
False. That does not appear anywhere in the Constitution.
6. What part of the Constitution encourages lobbying?
“Giving buckets of money to legislators” is not lobbying. Lobbying is the effort to convince local, state, and federal officials
to support or oppose legislation and policies reflecting your positions. Everyone can do it. It doesn't cost a dime.
The American founders wanted lobbyists. They expected them.
Our own Declaration of Independence says:
Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any
form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, …
Lobbying was so important to them that they enshrined it in the First Amendment in our Bill of Rights:
Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, … or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to
petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
The Constitution requires that House of Representatives members face election every two years because that makes them
more accountable to the people. The president and all members of Congress maintain websites with contact information
and email forms to give them your comments and opinions. This stuff doesn’t exist purely for decoration.
7. Where can we find separation of church and state in the Constitution?
The phrases “three equal branches of government”, “innocent until proven guilty”, and “majority rule” aren’t there either,
but the concepts do exist in our government.
Thomas Jefferson created the phrase in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association:
… Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between Man & his God, that he owes account to none
other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, & not opinions, I
contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should
"make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of
separation between Church & State, therefore, is absolutely essential in a free society."
The First Amendment creates the separation of church and state, just as the first three articles of the Constitution create
the three equal branches of our government. The federal government recognizes this separation in many ways. Churches
are exempt from income taxes and do not have to file formal requests for tax exempt status like other nonprofit
Federal courts have held that the establishment clause (“respecting an establishment of religion”) means that the
government may not show any preference for one religion over another, sponsor or promote religion or religious practices
in any way, prevent people from privately practicing their own faiths, or require anyone to perform religious rituals at all.
That’s where the phrase “freedom from religion” comes from. The separation works both ways. If we permit religious
interference in the government, then the government will be free to interfere with religion. Do you want the government
to tell your pastor what to preach?
8. Why do political parties have so much power in Congress?
Our Constitution doesn’t mention political parties at all. However, Article I, Section 5, Clause 2 gives each “house” of
Congress – meaning Senate and House of Representatives – the power to determine its own rules of procedure.
Both House and Senate have adopted rules which give immense power to the majority party and to members with the
most seniority. The Senate majority leader, currently Mitch McConnell, controls the Senate calendar, schedule, and all
procedures. In both chambers, the chairs of committees are the most senior committee members of the majority party.
Committee chairs determine which bills the committees consider, and which are sent to the full chamber for votes. If a
chair doesn’t want a bill to get to a floor vote, it doesn’t happen.
9. What is the function of a whip in Congress?
The House and Senate have both adopted rules giving a great deal of power to the party holding the majority of seats.
Congressional leaders are members of Congress and are chosen by their respective parties at the beginning of each new
The majority party has the most members in the legislature, and the minority has fewer members. Seniority is the
primary factor in selecting party leaders. Currently, the Republican Party holds a majority in both houses of Congress.
Republicans and Democrats in both the House and the Senate maintain similar leadership positions.
• The majority or minority leader acts as spokesperson for the party on the floor during debates and with the public and
• The whips encourage party members to vote along party lines and consults with members to gauge their attitudes on
10. Why was Ted Cruz eligible to be president?
During the 2008 presidential campaign, millions of Americans forcefully claimed that Barack Obama couldn’t be president
because he wasn’t born in the United States. Some claimed that Hawaii wasn’t a state until after he was born. Wrong.
Others claimed that he was born in Kenya. Wrong again. Then we had big kerfuffle about his birth certificate.
It didn’t matter where or when he was born.
He was a U.S. citizen because his mother was a U.S. citizen.
The U.S. Constitution does not say that the president must be born in the United States.
It says that the president must be a "natural born citizen". (Article II, Section 1, Clause 5)
Article I, Section 8, Clause 4 of the Constitution gives Congress the power To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization
Throughout the last 140 years, federal law has defined a "natural-born" citizen as one who is a citizen from the moment
of birth, and did not become a citizen later in life. According to the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, (Section
301, Paragraph e), A child born outside the US is a natural born citizen if at least one parent was a US citizen at the time
of that birth.
Until shortly before the 2016 presidential election, Ted Cruz held dual citizenship – American and Canadian. He was born
in Canada. His mother was American, his father was Cuban.
The Constitution does not exclude people holding dual citizenship from the presidency.
Only ONE parent must be a citizen to produce a natural born citizen.
You can be born on the moon and be a natural born citizen.
11. How does the Constitution permit presidential czars?
The term dates back as far as President Woodrow Wilson’s administration during World War I, but it has never been the official title for a presidential adviser. It is purely a creation of the media. Every president since Franklin Roosevelt has appointed special advisers. The MEDIA calls them “czars” because the actual job titles are too long for newspaper headlines.
Some of President Barack Obama’s czars held titles such as
• United States Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Financial Stability (Bank Bailout Czar)
• Senior Advisor President's Automotive Task Force (Car Czar)
• Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change (Climate Czar)
• Director of National Drug Control Policy (Drug Czar)
• Director of the White House Office of Health Reform and Counselor to the President (Health
• Director of National Intelligence (Intelligence Czar)
During Obama’s first term, Republicans claimed that “czars” violate constitutional authority because the Senate doesn’t confirm them. That is not true.
Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 of the US Constitution says:
“(The president) shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, . . . shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.”
That means that the president has the legal authority to appoint people to certain positions without Senate confirmation. And Congress has given every president the authority to appoint special advisers. The czars generally have a very limited scope of authority, little or no staff, and no budget of their own. They are within the Executive Office of the President, and are supervised by the president’s chief of staff.
Donald Trump has appointed plenty of advisers without Senate confirmation, most notably his daughter, son-in-law, and many personal friends. The media do not call them “czars”, and none of them are listed on the White House website.
12. What are the six ways for a president to leave office?
According to the U.S. Constitution, the six ways are:
Impeachment does not mean that the president is fired. It means that s/he is charged with a crime. Then the Senate holds a trial on those charges. The president is fired if the Senate convicts her/him.
The 25th amendment allows the vice president, cabinet, and potentially Congress to expel a president who is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.
13. Why are there 538 members of the Electoral College?
There are 535 members of Congress – Two senators for each state, plus 435 House members, apportioned among the states according to their population.
The Electoral College consists of 535 people to match the number of seats in Congress plus three members representing the number of congressional seats that the District of Columbia would have, if it were a state.
14. What is the Constitutional basis for Executive Orders?
Article II of the Constitution establishes the Executive Branch of our government. It says:
The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.
The Executive Branch executes the laws passed by Congress (the Legislative Branch).
The President leads the Executive Branch and is assisted Cabinet, Executive Office of the President, and other agencies.
The Constitution doesn’t specifically mention Executive Orders, but leaves the daily managerial decisions up to the president. Historically, our presidents have chosen to use Executive Orders as one of their tools for doing their jobs.
An Executive Order is merely the president’s written instructions to her/his staff on how they are to implement the laws, and other Executive Branch management issues.
Once the president signs an order, it is sent to the Federal Register office, where it is published in the next daily edition of the Register. The Federal Register is the official record of the Executive Branch’s activities. The Order is numbered sequentially; Donald Trump’s most recent Executive Order was number 13819.
Republicans made a big fuss about President Obama’s Executive Orders, but somehow don’t mind it when Donald Trump issues orders.
15. Why was Franklin Delano Roosevelt eligible for election to four terms as president, but all presidents since then are limited to two terms?
The original version of the Constitution did not include term limits for the president, but no president before FDR chose to run for more than two. Republicans wanted to prevent another FDR, so they pushed the 22nd Amendment, ratified in 1951. It limits the president to two full terms, plus the possibility of an additional two years if s/he was acting as president in place of one who was elected but left the office.
16. How can the public influence government regulations?
The Constitution gives Congress all law-making authority. Once passed, a law is called a statute.
The U.S. Code contains every federal law currently in force, organized by subject matter.
For example, the Constitution’s Article I and Sixteenth Amendment give Congress the authority to impose income taxes. Countless statutes instruct the Internal Revenue Service to create regulations to implement them. That’s where we get the 1040, the rest of the forms, and all tax reporting procedures. The 1946 National School Lunch Act requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to regulate nutritional standards for those meals. The Environmental Protection Agency manages regulations regarding pollution and our environment. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration manages regulations on those topics.
The Code of Federal Regulations contains all of the rules associated with those laws.
Republicans want you to believe that “the government” invents those rules out of thin air, without any statutory authority or opportunity for any public input at all. That is a lie. There is a process and you can influence it.
Once the president signs a new law, the appropriate agency staff members draft the necessary regulations. Regulations must adhere to the laws. They cannot change the intent or effect of the laws on which they are based. The department managers, including the cabinet secretary, review the draft, suggest improvements, and eventually accept the final draft proposal. This can take anywhere from a month to a year, depending on the complexity and urgency of the subject matter. When necessary, the Cabinet secretaries consult with the president.
This is where you come in. Every new regulation is published in the Federal Register, a daily record of all executive branch actions. Some regulations are published in final form right away. Most are published as proposed regulations. The public is invited, encouraged, and welcome to submit comments on those proposals. Anyone can support, oppose, or suggest changes to the rules. The Federal Register announcement includes a statement containing a deadline and address for submitting comments. The FR is published every weekday, except national holidays.
Yes, it really does work. I’ve submitted comments on proposed regulations dozens of times. And yes, the comments do make a difference. The more comments a department receives, the more likely they are to adopt the recommended changes.
The department staffers read and analyze the submitted comments. In true democratic fashion, there are meetings and memos and reports. Eventually, the department managers decide on the final version of the regulations. That final version goes to the Federal Register for publication. The notice includes a report on the types and nature of comments, their rationale for accepting or rejecting changes, and the effective date of the new final rules.
If you want to submit comments in a field where you have some interest or expertise, you can go to Regulations.gov. This site links to proposed and final regulations for nearly 300 federal agencies.
Each agency’s website also contains a section listing current proposed comments on its topic area.
Go to usa.gov to locate specific government agencies.
17. Why do we need more lobbyists?
Members of Congress, the corporate media, and those who control our schools don't want you to know that Lobbying is the ONLY thing that can restore our democracy. They don’t want you to know that YOU have the power to influence Congress.
"Giving buckets of money to legislators" is not lobbying. Lobbying is the effort to convince local, state, and federal officials to support legislation and policies reflecting your positions. Everyone can do it. And it doesn’t cost a dime.
Legislators listen to corporate lobbyists because they are the only ones doing the talking. If you want your representatives to listen to you, then start talking to them. If the 99% would do more lobbying, the 1% would have less power.
Without lobbyists, we wouldn’t have
But we would have
The final three questions don’t have any right or wrong answers.
They ask for your opinion.
18. What is your opinion on repealing the 17th amendment?
In the original version, the Constitution required each state legislature to choose the two senators who would represent the state in Congress. The Senators represented the states.
The 17th Amendment, ratified in 1913, now requires that the public votes to choose its senators.
Since President Obama was elected in 2008, some Republicans want to repeal the 17th and revert to the original status.
They want this because they control most state legislatures and governorships, and think that they will be able to control the Senate, and thus all of Congress, indefinitely.
Do you think this is a good idea?
19. Is the 25th amendment specific enough?
The 25th amendment allows the vice president, cabinet, and potentially Congress to expel a president who is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.
Should we amend the amendment to specify the types of physical and mental conditions would qualify as disabilities?
20. The Constitution’s Article III, Section 3, Clause 1 says:
Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
Some members of the Trump administration, including the president himself, have been accused of colluding with Russian government officials to influence the 2016 presidential election in favor of Mr. Trump.
We are not at war with Russia. Are they our enemies? Does this constitute treason?
While considering this question, please keep in mind that there are federal statutes regarding espionage, money laundering, campaign financing, and bribery.
Now you can enter theCommunity Matters Essay Contest.