Powers of the President

What would you do as 'Leader of the Free World'? The President of the United States is an office with tremendous power and responsibility, but did you know that those powers are actually fairly well-defined by the Constitution? Even so, as long as the president acts in line with the Constitution, they have a good deal of freedom to act as they see fit. So, what different kinds of power does the president have, and where do they come from? Let's find out!

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What responsibilities does Clause Two of Section II, Article II give the president?

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_______ ______ are rules and regulations which the president can issue unilaterally, i.e. without the oversight of Congress

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Which clause to the US Constitution gives the president the power to receive foreign representatives and recognise foreign nations? 

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The president appoints ambassadors to represent the US abroad.

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The president is considered _______  __ _____ of the US Army and Navy.

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What is it called when the president decides to expunge someone's conviction from their record?

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Enumerated powers are those given to the president.

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The president is considered the executive branch of the country.

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The president has the power to sign or _____ legislation.

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Section II, Article ____ of the United States Constitution sets up the powers of the president.

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What responsibilities does Clause Four of Section II, Article II give the president?

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What responsibilities does Clause Two of Section II, Article II give the president?

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_______ ______ are rules and regulations which the president can issue unilaterally, i.e. without the oversight of Congress

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  • Mo

Which clause to the US Constitution gives the president the power to receive foreign representatives and recognise foreign nations? 

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  • Immunology
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  • Mo

True or False:

The president appoints ambassadors to represent the US abroad.

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  • Immunology
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  • Mo

Fill in the Blank:

The president is considered _______  __ _____ of the US Army and Navy.

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  • Mo

What is it called when the president decides to expunge someone's conviction from their record?

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True or False:

Enumerated powers are those given to the president.

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True or False:

The president is considered the executive branch of the country.

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The president has the power to sign or _____ legislation.

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Section II, Article ____ of the United States Constitution sets up the powers of the president.

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What responsibilities does Clause Four of Section II, Article II give the president?

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Table of contents

    Constitutional Powers of the President

    The powers of the President are primarily defined in Article II of the United States Constitution. This article outlines the executive branch of the government, which is headed by the President, and covers the various powers and duties they are charged with. The most important source of the president's powers, therefore, is the US Constitution. Article II Section 1 Clause I provides:

    The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected [...]"

    It's clear from this that the President has exceptionally wide-ranging executive powers - he is the Executive branch of the government. This section of the Constitution sets out that the president has the power to sign or veto legislation, make appointments, and sign treaties. Other specific powers outlined in the Constitution include:

    • Serving as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces
    • Granting pardons
    • Appointing federal officers and judges
    • Conducting foreign policy.
    • Having a larger role in domestic policy, executive orders, and national emergencies.

    Articles I and III contain the outlines of powers and responsibilities for the Legislature (Congress) and Judiciary, respectively.

    Powers of the President: Role of the President in the Constitution

    The U.S. Constitution requires several things of the President. Notably, the President must be at least 35 years old, a natural-born citizen of the United States, and have lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years. Moreover, Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution mandates that the President "shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union," which is typically satisfied with the annual State of the Union Address.

    Section 2 of Article II also sets out the President's powers as Commander-in-Chief of the US Army and Navy and gives him the power to grant pardons for federal crimes. Article II also sets out the President's other responsibilities:

    Clause of Article IIPower or Responsibility
    Clause OneKeeping Congress informed of the State of the Union "from time to time". In practice, the president makes an annual speech to a joint session of Congress on the current state of the country.
    Clause TwoMaking recommendations to Congress to take such measures as are "necessary and expedient". This can be recommendations on law, policy, or anything the president thinks Congress should take action on.
    Clause ThreeCalling extraordinary meetings of Congress, when Congress isn't sitting, if there's a major national or international crisis or incident.
    Clause FourThe power to receive foreign representatives and recognise foreign nations.
    Clause FiveTo faithfully execute the laws of the land.
    Clause SixTo commission all officers of the United States into service.

    Powers of the President President George Washington leading his army against the Whiskey Rebellion StudySmarterFig. 1 - President George Washington leading his army against the Whiskey Rebellion.

    A Pardon is when the president decides to expunge someone's conviction from their record. It is different from commuting someone's sentence to a lesser one, as a pardon completely erases the offence from the person's record while commuting a sentence does not - it merely means they won't be punished any further.

    Federal crimes are crimes against federal law - the law that applies to the whole of the United States. A pardon for a crime against the law of an individual state can only be given by that state's governor - the equivalent to the president of the individual state.

    Powers of the President: Types of Presidential Power

    While the Constitution is the original and most fundamental source of Presidential power, there are different types of power that can be broadly categorized as follows:

    1. Executive Powers: The President is responsible for the execution and enforcement of the laws created by Congress. They have the authority to appoint, remove, and supervise all executive officers and to appoint all federal judicial officers, including Supreme Court Justices, subject to Senate confirmation.

    2. Legislative Powers: The President has the power to sign or veto legislation passed by Congress. They also have the responsibility to periodically inform Congress about the "State of the Union" and recommend necessary and expedient measures.

    3. Diplomatic Powers: The President is the chief diplomat of the United States. They can make treaties with other nations, subject to the approval of the Senate. They also have the power to recognize foreign governments and receive foreign diplomats.

    4. Military Powers: As the Commander-in-Chief of the United States Armed Forces, the President has the authority to command the military. They can make key military decisions, but the power to declare war lies with Congress.

    5. Judicial Powers: The President has the power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.

    6. Emergency Powers: In times of crisis or emergency, the President can assume additional powers. These are not clearly defined in the Constitution but have been used to justify various actions in the name of national security.

    7. Other Powers: The President also has powers that are implied or have been delegated by Congress, such as issuing executive orders or proclamations, and the power to manage the federal budget.

    The President's powers have evolved over time and are subject to interpretations of the Constitution, legislation, and precedent. Let's find out more about what the powers of the President are and how they differ from each other!

    Executive Power

    Whilst it's true that the president is the Executive, here the term executive has a slightly narrower meaning: it refers to the President's power to make executive orders.

    Executive orders are rules and regulations which the president can issue unilaterally, i.e. without the oversight of Congress.

    Why do you think the president has the power to issue executive orders without approval from Congress? What might they be useful for?

    The Supreme Court has held that any executive order issued by the president has to be constitutional, so the president couldn't issue an executive order which banned all religious speech, for example - as this would go against the First Amendment right to free speech. They also can't attempt to make whole new laws out of thin air; they have to be used to issue directions to federal institutions which have a basis in some pre-existing law.

    In Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v Sawyer, the Supreme Court ruled that an executive order issued by President Truman to bring all steel works under federal control was invalid, as it attempted to make new law. Since then, presidents have usually been careful to explain in executive orders under what laws they are making the order, and what they are aiming to achieve. Sometimes, if they issue an executive order under powers from the Constitution, they will simply state "under the powers invested in me by the Constitution...".

    Franklin D. Roosevelt holds the record for the most executive orders issued while in power - a staggering 3522, which is equal to four orders every five days!

    Powers of the President President Franklin D. Roosevelt StudySmarterFig. 2 - President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the 32nd President of the United States.

    However, the Supreme Court has also held that subject to these provisos, the broad language used in the Constitution which gives the President executive power means that an executive order can cover pretty much anything.

    Foreign Relations & Judicial Appointments

    The President is responsible for, and has power over, all foreign relations. He appoints ambassadors to represent the US abroad and is responsible for the relations with foreign ambassadors to the US. Of course, the President often meets other heads of state for diplomatic reasons.

    Much of the nitty-gritty is hashed out amongst ambassadors and their diplomatic staff. The President signs international treaties, though, like ambassadorial appointments, these need Congress' approval to become effective.

    The President also has the power to appoint federal judges to the Courts of Appeals on the federal circuits, and also to the US Supreme Court. While its purpose is to ensure checks and balances on the judiciary, the politicization of the judiciary is very controversial.

    Federal judges do have to be confirmed by the Senate (which is itself a check on the President's power to appoint judges), but this step rarely fails, and so a president in reality has the power to appoint judges who he knows will rule in line with his own political beliefs. This is exacerbated by the fact that federal judges have life tenure once they are appointed.

    Powers of the President US Supreme Court Justices in 2009 StudySmarterFig. 3 - The US Supreme Court Justices in 2009.

    There is perhaps no better example of this controversy in action than President Donald Trump's appointments to the Supreme Court. Three judges either died or retired while he was in office, and he used his appointments to install young justices who hold controversial and very conservative legal beliefs, who will go on to serve decades on the nation's highest court.

    Justice Kavanaugh was accused by multiple women of sexual assault when he was nominated but was approved along party lines in the Senate. Justices Gorsuch and Barrett were appointed in contentious circumstances - Republicans refused to allow Barack Obama to make a nomination during an election year, paving the way for Gorsuch's appointment, only to support Donald Trump's nomination of Barrett during the next election year.

    These situations outline how the President's extensive powers can be controversial, especially when the Legislature is controlled by his party, as it effectively means they can control judicial appointments, too, having a hand in all three branches of government and weakening checks and balances.

    Delegated Power of the President

    Certain powers, called Delegated Powers, have been given to Congress, rather than the president, by the Constitution. They're sometimes called Enumerated Powers, or Express Powers. These include the power to impose taxes, produce coins and notes for money, and borrow money from other countries. Most of these powers delegated to Congress are financial, as the Founding Fathers didn't want that enormous power to be vested in just one person.

    Think about the history of the US and why it wanted independence from Britain. Why would the Founders be worried about giving all the economic power to one person?

    Powers of the President - Key takeaways

    • The powers of the President are primarily defined in Article II of the United States Constitution. This article outlines the executive branch of the government, which is headed by the President, and covers the various powers and duties they are charged with. These powers include executive functions and command of the army and navy.
    • The President can also appoint judges, officials and ambassadors to carry out diplomatic and legal functions.
    • Congress has wide review powers over the president's actions - many powers can only be exercised with Congress' approval.
    • The President has the power of clemency for federal crimes, but not state crimes.
    • The Founding Fathers thought some powers, such as imposing taxes and authorising borrowing money, were too strong to be given to just one person, so they are left to Congress. These are called Delegated Powers.

    References

    1. Fig. 2 - Original color transparency of FDR (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:FDR_1944_Color_Portrait.jpg) taken at 1944 Official Campaign Portrait session by Leon A. Perskie, Hyde Park, New York, August 21, 1944, licensed by CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)
    Frequently Asked Questions about Powers of the President

    How can congress limit the power of the president? 

    Congress can override a presidential veto, they can also either accept or refuse the president's choice for a Supreme Court nomination. Further, Congress can impeach a president. 

    What are the expressed powers of the vice president?

    The vice president serves as the president of the Senate, breaking any tied votes. Also, the vice president meets with the heads of other governments and acts as an adviser for the president.

    What are the powers and functions of president? 

    The president has the power to execute the Constitution--meaning he can sign or veto legislation. Also, he signs treaties. Further, he receives representatives from other countries and develops foreign relationships. The president also chooses Supreme Court justices. 

    What are the emergency powers of the president?

    This allows the president to act in case of an emergency, such as mobilizing the military, launching a nuclear attack, and postponing an election.

    How can a president exercise the power of recognition?

    This happens when the president receives the ambassador or representative of another country when they visit the United States.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    Which clause to the US Constitution gives the president the power to receive foreign representatives and recognise foreign nations? 

    True or False:The president appoints ambassadors to represent the US abroad.

    What is it called when the president decides to expunge someone's conviction from their record?

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