- Powers of the President of the United States
=Powers of State=
Because the United States is a
presidential system, the President fulfils the roles of both chief of stateand head of government. As chief of state, the President of the United States represents the nation at home and abroad. In this capacity the President has the power to receive other foreign heads of state, such as the Queen of Englandor the President of the People's Republic of Chinain official ceremonies. As head of state, the President has the power to offer diplomatic recognitionof other states. This is most commonly done thorough an exchange of ambassadors between the two countries. At times, diplomatic recognition can be controversial. President Harry Trumanrecognized the state of Israelin 1948 to much popular outcry, and President George W. Bush extended recognition to Kosovoin 2008 despite the questionable legal status of the nation. Many of the duties as chief of state are ceremonial and convey no real power. The President will exercise real political power as the chief executive.
Within the executive branch itself, the
presidenthas broad powers to manage national affairs and the workings of the federal government. The president can issue rules, regulations, and instructions called executive orders, which have the binding force of law upon federal agencies but do not require congressional approval.
The president is also responsible for preparing the Budget of the United States, although the Congress must approve it. The
Office of Management and Budgetassists the President with the preparation of the budget. In the past, the President has been able to impound funds that he feels Congress has spent unwisely. This power was taken away from the President with the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974in 1974 after President Richard Nixonkilled many legislative initiatives though impoundment. This act also created the Congressional Budget Officeas a legislative counterpoint to the Office of Management and Budget.
Commander in Chiefof the armed forces of the United States, the president may also call into federal service the state units of the National Guard. In times of war or national emergency, the Congress may grant the president even broader powers to manage the national economy and protect the security of the United States. These actions have been taken by presidents from Washington to today but are not powers granted by the Constitution to the president. In 1973, Congress passed the War Powers Actto severely limit the ability of the President to conduct warfare without Congressional approval. Following the events of September 11, 2001, Congress has returned some of the war power to the President with the Iraq Resolution. The president does retain the sole right to authorize the use of nuclear weapons and is constantly accompanied by a special military officer who carries the " nuclear football".
Powers related to Legislation
The President has several options when a bill arrives on his desk from Congress. If he agrees with the bill, then it is signed into law within ten days of receipt. If the president opposes the bill, he can
vetoit and return the legislation to Congress with a veto message offering suggested changes. Presidents must approve all of a bill or none of it, they do not have the ability to veto only selected parts. If the Congress is still in session for ten business days after the president receives the bill, the legislation will become a law without the president's signature. But, if Congress adjourns within the ten business days of giving the bill to the President, the bill dies. If the president does this to a bill, Congress can do nothing to override the president. This is called a Pocket Veto. In 1996, Congress gave President Bill Clintona line item vetoover parts of a bill that require spending federal funds. The Supreme Court ruled that Clinton's use of the veto against a pork barrel appropriationfor New York City was unconstitutional. The Court ruled in Clinton v. City of New Yorkthat only a constitutional amendmentcould give the president the line item veto power. President George W. Bush has also tried to override congressional bill with the use of signing statements. In a signing statement, the President can alter or ignore the intention of a bill. The Supreme Court has not addressed the use of signing statements by President Bush. Congress can override vetoes with a two thirds vote of both chambers, but this process is difficult and rarely happens to most presidents.
Much of the legislation dealt with by Congress is drafted at the initiative of the executive branch. In annual and special messages to Congress, the president may propose legislation he believes is necessary. The most important of these is the annual
State of the Union Address. Before a joint session of Congress, the president outlines the status of the country and his legislative proposals for the upcoming year. If Congress should adjourn without acting on those proposals, the president has the power to call it into special session. But beyond this official role, the president, as head of a political party and as principal executive officer of the United States government, is primarily in a position to influence public opinion and thereby to influence the course of legislation in Congress.
To improve their working relationships with Congress, presidents in recent years have set up an Office of Legislative Affairs in the White House. Presidential aides keep abreast of all important legislative activities and
Powers of Appointment
The President of the United States has several different appointment powers.
Before taking office, the
president electmust appoint over 6,000 new federal positions. The appointments range from top officials at U.S. government agencies, to the White House Staff, and members of the United States diplomatic corps. Many, but not all, of these positions are appointed by the President with the advice and consentof the United States Senate.
The President also has the power to nominate federal judges, including members of the
United States Courts of Appealsand the United States Supreme Court. However, these nominations do require Senate confirmation, and this can provide a major stumbling block for Presidents who wish to shape their federal judiciary in a particular ideological stance. The President must appoint judges for the United States District Courts, but he will often defer to Senatorial courtesyin making these choices.
As head of the
executive branch, the President must appoint the top officials for all of the federal agencies. These positions are listed in the Plum Bookwhich outlines the 7,000 bureaucratic positions that the President has the right to fill. In the case of ten agencies, the President is free to appoint a new agency head at his pleasure. For example, it is not unusual for the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency or the NASA Administrator to be changed by the President. Other agencies that deal with federal regulation such as the Federal Reserve Boardor the Securities and Exchange Commissionhave set terms that will often outlast the time a President sits in office. For example, the members of the Federal Reserve board serve for twelve years. This is to ensure that these agencies can act independently of political control. The President also appoints members to the boards of directors for Government-owned corporationssuch as Amtrak. The President can also make a recess appointmentif a position needs to be filled while Congress is not in session.
In the past, Presidents had the power to appoint all member of the United States
civil service. This use of the spoils systemallowed Presidents to reward political supporters with jobs. Following the assassination of President James Garfieldby Charles J. Guiteau, a disgruntled office seeker, Congress instituted a merit-based civil service in which positions are filled on a nonpartisan basis. The Office of Personnel Managementnow oversees the staffing of 2.8 million federal jobs in the federal bureaucracy.
The President must also appoint his staff of 1,800 aides, advisers, and assistants. These individuals are political appointments and are not subject to review by the Senate. All members of the staff serve, "at the pleasure of the President."
Article II of the United States Constitution gives the President the power to check the legislative and judicial branches by altering punishment for crimes. Presidents can issue blanket
amnestywhich forgives entire groups of people for a crime. President Jimmy Carter offered amnesty to Vietnam War draftees who fled to Canada. Presidents can also issue temporary suspension of prosecution or punishment in the form of respites. This power is most commonly used to delay federal sentences of execution.
The two most commonly used clemency powers are those of
pardonand commutation. A pardon is an official forgiveness for an acknowledged crime. Once a pardon is issued, all punishment for the crime is waived. The person accepting the pardon must, however, acknowledge that the crime did take place. The President maintains the Office of the Pardon Attorneyin the Department of Justiceto review all requests for pardons. Most pardons are issued as oversight of the judicial branch, especially in cases where Federal Sentencing Guidelinesare considered too severe for the crime committed. Other pardons have been much more controversial because there have been political motivation for their use. President Bill Clintonpardoned millionaire Marc Richafter Rich fled the country to escape prosecution. The most famous presidential pardon is that of former President Richard Nixonby President Gerald Ford.
A President can also commute a sentence which, in effect, changes the punishment to time served. While the guilty party may be released from custody or not have to serve out a prison term, all other punishments still apply. President
George W. Bushcommuted the sentence of White House staffer Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
Under the Constitution, the president is the federal official that is primarily responsible for the relations of the United States with foreign nations. The president appoints ambassadors, ministers, and consuls — subject to confirmation by the Senate — and receives foreign ambassadors and other public officials. With the secretary of state, the president manages all official contacts with foreign governments. On occasion, the president may personally participate in summit conferences where chiefs of state meet for direct consultation. Thus, President
Woodrow Wilsonheaded the American delegation to the Parisconference at the end of World War I; President Franklin D. Rooseveltmet with Alliedleaders during World War II; and every president since then has sat down with world leaders to discuss economic and political issues and to reach bilateral and multilateral agreements.
Through the Department of State and the Department of Defense, the president is responsible for the protection of Americans abroad and of foreign nationals in the United States. The president decides whether to recognize new nations and new governments, and negotiate treaties with other nations, which become binding on the United States when approved by two-thirds of the Senate. The president may also negotiate "
executive agreements" with foreign powers that are not subject to Senate confirmation.
Over the years, Presidents have claimed to have emergency powers in times of crisis. These
Inherent Powershave been used both at home and overseas. The most common use of emergency powers is to declare a state of emergency which allows the Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA) to bypass normal administrative and jurisdictional rules. Declarations of emergency can also provide special federal aid such as during the Flood of 1993along the Mississippi River or in New Orleansafter Hurricane Katrina. President Abraham Lincoln used his emergency powers to suspend the writ of habeas corpusin Maryland during the [American Civil War] . While this was declared unconstitutional by Chief Justice Roger Taneyin ex parte Milligan, Lincoln simply ignored the order. President Harry Truman was also denied emergency powers by the Court in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyerwhen he tried to nationalize the nation's steel mills. In 2001, President Bush declared an ongoing state of national emergency in order to combat any future terrorist attacks.
Executive privilegegives the President to withhold information from the public, Congress, and the courts in matters of national security. George Washingtonfirst claimed privilege when Congress requested to see Chief Justice John Jay's notes from an unpopular treaty negotiation with Great Britain. While not enshrined in the Constitution, Washington's action created the precedent for privilege. When Richard Nixon tried to use executive privilege as a reason for not turning over subpoenaed evidence to Congress for the Watergatehearings, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Nixonthat privilege did not apply in cases where a President was attempting to avoid criminal prosecution. Later President Bill Clinton lost in federal court when he tried to assert privilege in the Lewinski scandal. The Supreme Court affirmed this in Clinton v. Joneswhich denied the use of privilege in cases of civil suits as well.
Constraints on Presidential power
Because of the vast array of presidential roles and responsibilities, coupled with a conspicuous presence on the national and international scene, political analysts have tended to place great emphasis on the president's powers. Some have even spoken of "the imperial presidency," referring to the expanded role of the office that Franklin D. Roosevelt maintained during his term.
Theodore Rooseveltfamously called the presidency a "bully pulpit" from which to raise issues nationally, for when a president raises an issue, it inevitably becomes subject to public debate. (Although in the argot of his day "bully" was simply a slangadjective meaning "nifty" or "effective", today this phrase is frequently taken at face value with the more common sense of the word "".) A president's power and influence may be limited, but politically the president is certainly the most important power in Washington and, furthermore, is one of the most famous and influential of all Americans.
Though constrained by various other laws passed by Congress, the President's executive branch conducts most foreign policy, and his power to order and direct troops as commander-in-chief is quite significant. (The exact limits of what a President can do with the military without Congressional authorization are open to debate.)
The Separation of Powers devised by the framers of the Constitution was designed to do one primary thing: to prevent the majority from ruling with an iron fist. Based on their experience, the framers shied away from giving any branch of the new government too much power. The separation of powers provides a system of shared power known as Checks and Balances (see
Separation of powers). For example, the President appoints judges and departmental secretaries. But these appointments must be approved by the Senate.
President of the United States
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.