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Gateways to Democracy

Approval Rating

Job performance evaluation for the president, Congress, or other public official or institution that is generated by public opinion polls and typically reported as a percentage

Bully Pulpit

Nickname for the power of the president to use the attention associated with the office to persuade the media, Congress, and the public to support his policy position.

Cabinet Departments

Executive branch organizations responsible for carrying out federal policy in a specific set of issue areas

Cabinet Secretaries

Heads of cabinet departments and chief advisers to the president on the issues under their jurisdiction.

Chief of Staff

Person who coordinates and oversees interactions among the president, his personal staff, and his cabinet secretaries

Civil Servants

Federal employees hired through a merit based system to implement federal programs and who are expected to be neutral in their political affiliation.


General power of president to grant mercy for a federal criminal offense

Cold War (1948-89)

Economic competition and political conflict between Communist and democratic nations


Decision to shorten a federal prison sentence

Council of Economic Advisers (CEA)

President's personal set of advisers on the economy.

Court-packing Plan

President Franklin Roosevelt's proposal to add new justices to the Supreme Court so that the Court would uphold his policies

Divided Government

Situation when one party controls the executive and the other party controls the legislature.

Executive Office of the President

Organization that houses all staff who work directly for the president.

Executive Order

Presidential directive that usually involves implementing a specific law

Executive Privilege

President's right to engage confidential communications with this advisers.

Federal Budget

Budget of all federal programs, typically released by the president in early February

Federal Budget Deficit

Difference between the amount of money the federal government spends in outlays and the amount of money it receives from revenues.

Federal Register

Official published record of all executive branch rules, regulations, and orders.

Federal Reserve Board

Independent regulatory commission that affects the money supply by setting the reserve requirements of member banks, establishing a discount rate for loans to members banks, and buying or selling government securities

Fireside Chat

Radio addresses by President Franklin D Roosevelt that were the first regular communications from the president to a large portion of the American public.

Fiscal Policy

Means of controlling the money supply through taxing and spending

Geneva Conventions

Set of treaties that define lawful military combar and protect the rights of prisoners of war.

Great Society

Lyndon B Johnson's program for expanding the federal social welfare programs in health care, education, and house, and ending poverty.

Head of State

Title given to the president as national leader


Process whereby the House brings charges against the president (or other federal officials) that will, upon conviction by the Senate, remove him from office.

Imperial Presidency

Power of the president to speak for the nation on the world stage and to set the policy agenda at home.


Condition in which money supply and higher wages leads to large increases in prices

Internal Revenue Service

Executive branch agency that collects federal taxes

Lame Duck

Term-limited official in his or her last term of office

Military Orders

Presidential directive that gives instructions to a branch of the armed forces

Military Tribunal

Specially created court that determines the innocence or guilt of enemy combatants

Monetary Policy

Means of controlling the money supply through control of interest rates and availability of credit, managed by a central bank, the Federal Reserve.

National Debt

Sum of loans and interest that the federal government has accrued over time to pay for the federal deficit.

National Security Council (NSC)

President's personal set of advisers on international security

Natural-Born Citizen

Citizen in a nation from birth, usually by being born there.

New Deal

Franklin D Roosevelt's program for ending the Great Depression through government intervention in the economy and a set of safety-net programs for workers.

Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

President's budget office

Omnibus Bills

Lengthy pieces of legislation that include provisions affecting a wide range of programs


Congress' power to overturn a presidential veto with a two-thirds vote in each chamber.


Full forgiveness for a crime.

Pocket Veto

Automatic veto that occurs when Congress goes out of session within ten days of submitting a bill to the president and the president has no signed it.

Political Appointees

Individuals appointed to federal jobs by the president with the explicitly task of carrying out his political and partisan agenda.

President Pro-Tempore

Constitutional leader of the Senate

Presidential Directive

Official instructions from the president regarding federal policy.

Presidential Directive on National Security

Presidential directive that deals with government action in the area of foreign policy and is not publicly released


Presidential directive usually issued to declare a change in federal policy


Downturn in economic activity, with declines in employment levels, income, retail spending, and industrial production.

Signing Statements

Written remarks issued by the president when signing a bill into law that often reflect his interpretation of how the law should be implemented.

Speaker of the House

Constitutional and political leader of the House

State of the Union Address

Speech given by the president to Congress every January on the condition of the country


Orders issued by a legal authority demanding that an individual appear to testify at, or turn over documents relevant to, a legal proceeding

Term Limits

Limits on the number of elected terms an elected official may serve.


Authority of the president to block legislation passed by Congress.

War Powers Act (1973)

Provides that the president cannot send troops into military conflict for more than 90 days without seeking a formal declaration of war from Congress.

Watergate Scandal (1972-74)

Scandal uncovered by Washington Post reporters that led to the resignation of President Richard M Nixon.

White House Office

President's personal staff organization

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