Jay Cost offers National Review Online readers a history lesson about congressional supremacy in the American political system.

When Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as speaker of the House earlier this month, she promised the American people renewed congressional vigor. Congress, she solemnly declared, is “coequal to the presidency and judiciary,” and House Democrats would act accordingly. Democratic partisans masquerading as public intellectuals have similarly rediscovered the virtues of legislative power, touting the importance of Congress as a coequal branch of government.

The problem with this? Congress is not coequal. It is superior. The notion of coequality of the branches is a myth that has been popularized over the past half century, during the rise of the imperial presidency, as a way to boost the executive’s standing in the eyes of the public.

There are three main reasons that Congress is supreme. First, Congress can get itself involved in the actions of the other branches. It can override presidential vetoes. It can deny appointments to the executive and judicial branches. It can impeach officers of the executive and judicial branches. It can set legislative and judicial pay. It also has wide discretion in determining the size and shape of the executive and judicial branches. Every executive department and indeed every officer except the president and vice president are creations of Congress. And Congress also has total authority to design the court system as it sees fit. While there are aspects of foreign affairs it cannot attend to, it can basically govern the domestic affairs of the country by itself.