The branch of government charged with implementing federal law and policy.
The Presidency — the president, along with the vice president, advisers, and staff.
The Bureaucracy — federal agencies that report to the president and/or Congress.
Four broad types of presidential power:
Formal powers — those listed in the text of the Constitution.
Inherent powers — powers based on the responsibility to “faithfully execute the laws.”
Informal powers — ways of influencing public opinion and other branches of government to support the president's goals.
Powers delegated by Congress.
Power to sign or veto proposed legislation.
Appointment power (subject to Senate confirmation; simple majority):
High-level appointments to the bureaucracy.
Generals and admirals.
Federal judges and Supreme Court justices.
Role of senatorial courtesy.
Power to negotiate treaties (subject to Senate ratification; ⅔ majority).
Power to pardon criminals or those accused of crimes.
Serves as commander-in-chief of the military.
Conflict over the War Powers Act of 1973.
Powers as head of state.
Meets with foreign heads of state and government.
Receives ambassadors from other countries.
Deliver information regarding the state of the union to Congress on a regular basis.
Not always done in person, particularly in the 19th century.
Now an important part of the power to persuade.
Based on the power to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
Power to issue executive orders.
Power to enter into executive agreements with foreign leaders.
Executive privilege (controversial).
The power to persuade and recommend new laws to Congress (Richard Neustadt).
The budget power.
There are three broad perspectives on the power of the presidency:
Constitutional Theory — president's power limited to listed powers in constitutional text.
Stewardship Theory — president's power can be limited by Constitution or laws passed by Congress.
Prerogative Theory — president has power to govern in the public interest, even in violation of the law or Constitution.
The President's “jurisdiction must be justified and
vindicated by affirmative constitutional or statutory provision or it
does not exist.”
— William Howard Taft (1916), Our Chief Magistrate and His Powers, p. 140.
“My belief was that it was
not only [the President's] right but his duty to do anything that the
needs of the Nation demanded unless such action was forbidden by the
Constitution or by the laws.”
— Theodore Roosevelt (1913), Autobiography, p. 357.
The executive has the “power to act according to discretion for the
public good without the prescription of the law and sometimes even
— John Locke (1689), Two Treatises of Government, Book II, Chapter 14, Section 160.
Sole formal power: serve as President of the Senate; break ties as needed.
For much of American history, not a particularly valuable job.
According to one of Franklin D. Roosevelt's vice presidents, John Nance Garner, the job was “not worth a pitcher of warm piss.”
However, more recent presidents have treated their vice president as a valued adviser.
Cabinet (to some extent)
Chief of Staff and White House Office
Executive Office of the President
Office of Management and Budget
Council of Economic Advisers
National Security Council
Political scientist Aaron Widalvsky argued that the president is more effective in foreign affairs than in domestic politics:
Greater legal authority in international politics.
“Ceremonial” duties of international politics reinforce the president's stature.
Fewer organized interest and public conflicts over foreign policy.
Fewer conflicts with Congress over foreign policy.
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