What is the meaning of “qualified connection” in Federalist No. 51 by James Madison?
Earlier in the paper Madison describes the executive as the weakest branch of government needing some "fortification" against the legislature.
As the weight of the legislative authority requires that it should be thus divided, the weakness of the executive may require, on the other hand, that it should be fortified.
The "qualified connection" is the fortification specifically awarded to the Executive against the weakest branch of the legislature, the Senate which favors the Executive. It's the Presidential Veto.
On ordinary occasions it might not be exerted with the requisite firmness, and on extraordinary occasions it might be perfidiously abused.
On ordinary occasions the President won't veto a bill, only on extraordinary occasions.
Why was the Senate the lesser opponent for the Executive in Madison's mind? Read my longer answer.
"Ambition must be made to counteract ambition."
Federalist Paper #51 is about "Checks and Balances" and "separations of power" within the branches of government.
Separation of powers is not just meant to isolate branches of government with absolute authority in their spheres of power; but crafting interdependence among the branches requiring their reserved powers to be used in concert to achieve goals. The phrase "qualified connection" generally refers to an interdependence. A curb by one branch against another.
- Congress declares war, but the President is the Commander and Chief of the Armed services.
- The President appoints his cabinet but they must be approved by the Senate.
- The House and Senate both must approve a bill for it to become a law.
The phrase "qualified connection" you cite specifically refers to the a weaker legislature branch (the senate) and the executive (previously described as a weakest branch of government in a Republic in Fed 51). Stated a different way, if the appointed President was seen blocking legislation of the elected House of Representatives, the House would have a natural political advantage as it was meant to reflect the will of the people. The appointed Senate had no such natural political advantage, thus it was the weaker legislative branch for the President to confront.
The objective was to have 3 independent relatively equal branches of government. Madison notes: “In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates.” We balance this advantage by dividing the legislature in two (house and senate) and then fortify the executive. It is “not possible to give to each department an equal power of self-defense.” Therefore we need to get creative to balance the scales by creating a "qualified connection" between this weaker department (The Executive) and the weaker branch (Senate) of the stronger department (Legislature).
What is the qualified connection which favors the executive between the Senate and the Executive? The Veto. Out of 1,484 regular vetoes since 1789, only 7.1%, or 106, have been overridden. Clearly the veto is the qualified connection which fortifies the executive against the legislature which is rolled out "on extraordinary occasions".
It is far more significant than the VP role as president of the senate. The VP who only play's any role when the senate is evenly split. That's occurred 4 times in 118 congresses or 3.3% of the times. Not much of a fortification to protect the weakest branch of government against the strongest.
Clearly the qualified connection in Federalist No. 51, is the veto.