Choose a President of your choice and, citing each power of the Presidency, describe why he is your favorite. You will need to provide an example of each power of the Presidency as part of your thesis.
Though the Framers nearly unanimously agreed about the need for a strong central government and a greatly empowered Congress, they did not agree about the proper role of the president or the sweep of his authority. In contrast to Article I’s laundry list of provisions for authority of the legislative branch, Article II details few presidential powers. Distrust of a powerful chief executive led to the Constitution’s intentionally vague prescriptions for the presidency. Nevertheless, it is these constitutional powers, when coupled with a President’s own personal style and abilities, which allow him to lead the nation.
Despite the Framers’ faith in George Washington as their intended first president, it took considerable compromise to overcome their continued fear of a too-powerful president. The specific powers of the executive branch that the Framers agreed on are enumerated in Article II of the Constitution. Perhaps the most important section of Article II is its first sentence: “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America”.
Over the years, the expected limits of these specific constitutional powers have changed as individual presidents asserted themselves in the political process. Some presidents are powerful and effective; others just limp along in office. Much of the president’s authority stems from his position as the symbolic leader of the nation and his ability to wield power, whether those powers are specifically enumerated in the Constitution or not. When the president speaks-especially in the area of foreign affairs-he speaks for the whole nation. But the base of all presidential authority is Article II, which outlines only a limited policy-making role for the President. Thus, as administrative head of the executive branch, the president is charged with taking “Care that the Laws be faithfully executed” but he has no actual power to make Congress enact legislation he supports.
To help the president enforce the laws passed by Congress, the Constitution authorizes him to appoint, with the advice and consent of the Senate, “Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law.”
The Constitution requires the president to inform Congress periodically of the “State of the Union” and authorizes the president to convene either or both houses of Congress on “extraordinary occasions”.
The President’s power to make treaties with foreign nations is checked by the Constitution’s stipulation that all treaties must be approved by at least two-thirds of the members of the Senate.
Presidents can affect the policy process through the veto power, the authority to reject any congressional legislation. Presidential vetoes have been vital to the development of the 20th and 21st Century Presidency. The threat of the presidential veto often prompts members of Congress to fashion legislation that they know will receive presidential acquiescence, if not support. Thus, just threatening to veto legislation often gives a president another way of influencing law making.
One of the most important constitutional executive powers is the president’s authority over the military. Article II states that the President is “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States.” The Framers saw this power as consistent with state practices, and since the 18th century, it has proved to be wide-ranging. While the Constitution specifically grants Congress the authority to declare war, presidents since Abraham Lincoln have used the Commander in Chief Clause in conjunction with the chief executive’s duty to “Take Care that the laws be faithfully executed” to wage war.
Presidents can exercise a check on judicial power through their constitutional authority to grant reprieves or pardons. A pardon is an executive grant releasing an individual from the punishment or legal consequences of a crime before or after conviction, and restores all rights and privileges of citizenship. Presidents exercise complete pardoning power for federal offenses except in cases of impeachment, which cannot be pardon. President Gerald Ford granted the most famous pardon when he pardoned former President Richard Nixon – who had not been formally charged with any crime – “for offenses against the United States, which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed while in office.” This unilateral, absolute pardon, which prevented the former President from ever being tried for any crimes he may have committed, unleashed a torrent of public criticism against Ford and questions about whether or not Nixon had discussed the pardon with Ford before Nixon’s resignation. Many attribute Ford’s ultimate defeat in his 1976 bid for the presidency to that pardon.
Executive Privilege is the power claimed by the President of the United States and other members of the executive branch to resist certain search warrants and other encroachments. The concept of executive privilege is not mentioned in the United States Constitution, but some consider it to be an element of the separation of powers doctrine, and/or derived from the supremacy of executive branch in its own area of Constitutional activity.
Presidents since George Washington & Thomas Jefferson have argued that each branch of government may operate with some degree of freedom from the control or supervision of the others. The Supreme Court confirmed the legitimacy of this doctrine in “United States vs. Nixon”, but only to the extent of confirming that it can be invoked when the oversight of the executive would impair that branch’s national security concerns.
The War Powers Act of 1973 is a United States federal law providing that the President can send U.S. military armed forces into action abroad only by authorization of Congress or if the United States is already under attack or serious threat. The War Powers Resolution requires that the President notify Congress within 48 hours of committing armed forces to military action and forbids armed forces from remaining for more than 60 days then a further 30 day withdrawal period, without an authorization of the use of military force or a declaration of war.