unit 2: the executive branch
Terms in this set (26)
The Framers of the Constitution considered giving the president a six- or seven-year term. They eventually decided on a four-year term with the option of reelection. Although the Constitution did not place a limit on the number of times a president can be reelected, President George Washington established an unofficial two-term precedent when he chose to retire after his second term.
Subsequent presidents followed the two-term tradition, though a few unsuccessfully sought a third term. Franklin Roosevelt, however, was elected to a third term in 1940 and to a fourth term in 1944. Critics of Roosevelt rallied support for the adoption of an amendment to limit the president's term in office. In 1955, the Twenty-Second Amendment passed, limiting presidents to two full terms in office.
The qualifications for becoming president are more stringent than those for other elected offices. Unlike senators and representatives, the president cannot be an immigrant from another country. He or she must be a natural-born citizen of the United States who is at least 35 years old. The president also has to have lived in the United States for at least 14 years, putting some limits on a candidate's ability to live overseas.
According to the Constitution, at what age may a candidate run for the office of president of the United States?
The Founding Fathers believed that a person must be at least 35 to be considered for the chief executive position.
While a few delegates to the Constitutional Convention thought the president should be elected directly by the people, most delegates thought Congress should choose the president.
Alexander Hamilton, however, was convinced that presidents would be too dependent on the legislative branch if they were elected by Congress. He persuaded the rest of the delegates to agree to a compromise solution, the Electoral College.
As a compromise between election by Congress and election by popular vote, Hamilton suggested that the president be elected by a separate body of presidential electors, the Electoral College. Each state would have as many electors as it had senators and representatives in Congress, but members of Congress would be prohibited from being electors.
Every four years, the states would select a group of "enlightened and respectable citizens" to be their electors. The electors in the state would then meet to cast votes for president.
The results would be sent to Congress to be counted. The candidate with the most votes would be president, and the one with the second highest total would be vice president. If no candidate received a majority of electoral votes, the House of Representatives would choose the president.
This cumbersome system was enshrined in the Constitution and worked for the first two presidential elections, in which George Washington was unanimously elected.
The first problems with the system became apparent in 1796, when John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were elected president and vice president. Strangely enough, these two men were political rivals and were in the midst of creating opposing political parties, the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans.
The emergence of the two-party system caused the election process to break down completely in the election of 1800.
In that year, the newly formed Federalist and Democratic-Republican parties each nominated candidates for president and vice president. The Democratic-Republicans were victorious, but their nominees, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, received exactly the same number of electoral votes.
Even though it was obvious that the Democratic-Republicans wanted Jefferson to be president, it took 36 ballots for the House to vote for that outcome.
This debacle led to the passage of the Twelfth Amendment, which requires that electors cast separate ballots for president and vice president.
The modern Electoral College system functions in a different way than the Founding Fathers intended.
Today, each party selects a single candidate for president through a series of state primaries. The parties also choose a slate of presidential electors who have pledged to vote for the party's candidate.
On Election Day, when voters go to the polls and vote for their choice for president, they are technically voting for a slate of electors who are pledged to a particular candidate.
The presidential candidate who receives the majority of votes in a state receives all of that state's electoral votes. (Maine and Nebraska allow proportional distribution of electoral votes, but the states seldom split their electoral votes.) The candidate with the most electoral votes is elected president.
The election of the president coincides with the election of the vice president, who is chosen as a running mate during the election campaign. The main constitutional role of the vice president is to take over the presidency if the president is unable to finish the term.
A vacancy in the presidency can occur in one of four ways: death, disability, impeachment, or resignation. Because the president is the most powerful official in the US government, it is important that the procedures for presidential succession be clearly laid out.
Despite the significance of this issue, the Constitution is somewhat vague on the question of how to fill a vacancy in the presidency. It merely states that the "powers and duties of the office . . . shall devolve on the Vice President."
The first death of a sitting president occurred when William Henry Harrison died in 1841. It was unclear whether Vice President John Tyler should actually become president or just take over the "powers and duties of the office."
Tyler did become president, and this decision set the precedent for similar situations in the future. It was not until the Twenty-Fifth Amendment was added to the Constitution in 1967 that the vice president's succession to the presidency was officially clarified.
The Twenty-Fifth Amendment also covers the issue of presidential disability. If the president cannot carry out his duties, he can declare so in writing and make the vice president "acting president." When President Ronald Reagan underwent surgery in 1985, for example, he made Vice President George H.W. Bush acting president for eight hours.
The vice president and a majority of Congress can also decide that the president is incapacitated and temporarily remove him from office. If the president returns to health, he may resume his office unless the vice president, a majority of the Cabinet, and two-thirds of Congress disagree.
The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 established a line of succession after the vice president. Next in line are the Speaker of the House, the president pro tempore of the Senate, and then the cabinet members in order of the historical creation of their departments.
The 2000 Election
The presidential election of 2000 between Republican candidate George W. Bush and Democratic candidate Al Gore became one of the closest and most contested elections in history. Preliminary results from Election Day were so close that a recount was ordered in the state of Florida.
Before the election results were tallied for Florida, Bush held 246 electoral votes and Gore had 255. Florida's 25 electoral votes therefore decided the winner.
Roles and Powers
The president of the United States serves in these roles:
-head of state
-head of government
-head of a political party
In addition, the president has significant influence over judiciary and legal proceedings. Each of these roles comes with its own set of powers.
The most powerful presidents have been those who have marshaled all of their diverse powers in pursuit of their goals.
The president, as chief executive of the United States, is the head of the executive branch of the US government. The executive branch contains a vast bureaucracy that is responsible for implementing the policies of the federal government. Without the executive branch, the decisions of Congress would have no meaning: laws would go unenforced and funds unspent.
With the help of the cabinet and the executive departments, the president executes all federal legislation. Although the president is legally required to implement all laws passed by Congress, he has a great deal of discretion about how vigorously to fulfill that responsibility. The executive branch creates regulations and policies that fill in the details of the broad, vague laws passed by Congress.
The president also holds the authority to issue executive orders, which are rules and regulations that have the force of law.
The president appoints, or names, many members of the government. For some positions, such as Supreme Court justices and members of the cabinet, the president must obtain the approval of the Senate. While the president appoints other officials without approval, executive offices themselves may be created or abolished only by the Senate.
Head of State
Some of the president's authority stems not from explicit powers, but rather from the president's symbolic authority as head of state. The head (or chief) of state acts as the ceremonial leader of a nation. In some countries, the head of state differs from the chief executive. In the United Kingdom, for instance, the monarch remains the head of state, but the monarch's authority is merely symbolic; the prime minister holds the real leadership of the government.
In the United States, the president serves as both the ceremonial and the actual head of the government. In a sense, the president acts as the living symbol of the American people. The president and the vice president remain the only government officials elected by the country as a whole. For this reason, the people expect the president to represent the interests of the entire nation against competing sectional and private interests.
As the representative of the American people, the president possesses great moral authority. Presidents often try to influence the behavior of the American people through example. President Jimmy Carter, for instance, was president during an energy crisis in the United States. To try to persuade people to save energy by turning down the heat, Carter made a point of wearing a sweater when addressing the American people.
In addition to symbolizing the American people at home, the president also represents the United States in its relations with the rest of the world. The diplomatic power of the president is not absolute, but the president serves as the primary architect of American foreign policy.
The Constitution gives the president exclusive authority to recognize foreign governments and receive ambassadors. The president's power to negotiate and sign agreements with other nations is more limited: Congress must approve by a two-thirds majority any treaty the president makes with a foreign government.
The president also holds the responsibility to act quickly in situations that threaten national security. The video on the next screen presents a case study of the tense days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which occurred during the Cold War.
The Founding Fathers wanted to make sure that the armed forces of the United States were under civilian control. The Constitution divides authority over the military between Congress and the president. Congress controls military expenditures and appropriations, while the president is commander-in-chief. As commander-in-chief, the president has direct control over military decisions, particularly in times of war.
Over time, the president's role as commander-in-chief has contributed to expanded presidential authority. The United States fought several major wars, including the Vietnam War, without a congressional declaration of war. The country also carried out many smaller military actions with almost no participation by Congress. Usually, however, the president seeks congressional approval for military actions.
In 1973, Congress attempted to reestablish some of its control over the armed forces by passing the War Powers Resolution, which substantially limited the president's military authority. The resolution requires the president to inform Congress within two days of sending US troops overseas. If Congress does not authorize the action within 60 days, the president must withdraw the troops.
Although the Founding Fathers clearly intended Congress to be in charge of passing laws, the Constitution gives the president several legislative powers. These powers enable the president to exercise substantial influence over the legislative process. By using all of the powers at their disposal, effective presidents can determine much of Congress's agenda.
The Constitution gives the president the power to propose legislation, and bills often originate in this way. The president holds the power to call Congress into special session to consider a pressing issue.
The Constitution requires the president to give an annual State of the Union address to Congress. Presidents frequently use this speech to propose a legislative agenda.
The president's most potent legislative weapon lies in the ability to veto legislation. If the president vetoes a bill, it does not become law unless Congress overrides the veto with a two-thirds majority in both houses. The number of bills that a president vetoes varies greatly and depends largely on the president's relationship with Congress.
In contrast to many countries, the judicial branch of the US government serves separately from the executive branch. Despite this separation of powers, the president wields substantial influence over the judiciary and legal proceedings.
The Constitution gives the president the power to appoint federal and Supreme Court judges. Although the Senate must approve the president's appointments, it usually defers to the president's choices. Presidents can substantially shape the character of the judiciary through their appointments.
The president influences the interpretation and application of the law through control over the federal Department of Justice. The Department of Justice, headed by the attorney general, supervises the application of all federal law. The department has great leeway in how it interprets and enforces federal statutes.
The president can also interfere directly in legal proceedings by exercising the power of clemency. The Constitution gives the president the authority to pardon, or legally forgive, a person convicted of a crime. A pardon that applies to a large group of people is called an amnesty. The president may also postpone a criminal's punishment (called a reprieve) or reduce the length or severity of a sentence (a commutation).
Presidents almost always lead their political parties. In consultation with other party leaders, the president helps set the party's legislative agenda and political strategy. Presidents use their power to reward their political allies by appointing them to important posts and supporting their policy proposals.
The president's party can derive substantial benefits from the president's ability to unify the party and communicate its message to the people. Presidents can hurt their parties as well. If a president is unpopular, voters will punish the president's party when they go to the polls.
In general, people tend to blame the president and the president's party for problems in society. For this reason, the president's party almost always loses seats in Congress during midterm elections, congressional elections that do not coincide with elections for president.
The ideal size and role of the federal government has remained an important political issue for the entire history of the United States. In general, the trend has moved toward expanding the government's responsibilities. As the role and responsibilities of the government have increased, so too have the powers of the presidency.
The emergence of economic planning represents the clearest example of the growth of governmental responsibility. Historically, many Americans have held suspicions about government interference in the economy. Remember, the colonies declared independence largely because they resented the taxation and trade regulations imposed on them by the king of England. Later, many Americans began to associate economic planning with communism, adding to their suspicion.
Nevertheless, economic planning is one of the essential functions of the US government and has been for many years. The US economy underwent rapid industrialization and growth starting in the late 19th century. The economy became more complex and less predictable, and the laissez-faire ("leave it alone") economic policies of the time proved inadequate to the task of managing the tumultuous new economy.
In the early 20th century, the government began to take a more active role in regulating the economy. President Theodore Roosevelt led an antitrust campaign to reduce the power of monopolistic corporations. In 1914, the Congress created the Federal Reserve System, which is responsible for maintaining favorable monetary and credit conditions.
Economic planning really took off during the Great Depression. President Franklin Roosevelt, elected in 1932, passed a series of economic initiatives known as the New Deal to help the United States emerge from the Depression. The British economist John Maynard Keynes strongly influenced Roosevelt when he argued that government could and should manage the state of the economy through active intervention.
Although the Constitution carefully separates the powers of the federal government, the three branches have often argued over exactly how power should be distributed among them. One frequent area of dispute lies in the claim made by many presidents that the principle of separation of powers entitles the president to resist certain demands by the other two branches. The extent and validity of this right, which is known as executive privilege, has been hotly contested.
George Washington was the first president to invoke executive privilege, a concept not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. The House of Representatives asked Washington to turn over certain documents relating to a recently signed treaty with England. Washington, citing executive privilege, gave the papers to the Senate but not the House, which has no authority over treaties.
Presidential claims of executive privilege have frequently clashed with congressional powers of investigation and oversight. Nevertheless, executive privilege was not fundamentally challenged until 1974, when President Richard Nixon, under investigation for his role in the Watergate scandal, refused to turn incriminating tapes over to a federal court.
The Supreme Court, while upholding the principle of executive privilege, declared that there is no "absolute unqualified Presidential privilege of immunity from judicial process under all circumstances." The Court held that Nixon's claim of executive privilege was invalid in this case, and it ordered the president to turn over the tapes.
Executive privilege, while an important source of presidential authority, has limits. Even the president does not sit above the rule of law.
The Supreme Court has further ruled that while the president cannot be sued in civil court for his official actions, executive privilege does not apply when the president is under criminal investigation.
Cabinet and Executive Department
The Constitution vests all executive power in a single person: the president. One person, however, cannot possibly implement thousands of laws and policies alone. A vast army of federal officials and employees exists to help the president do this work. Collectively, all of these officials and employees are known as the federal bureaucracy.
The president directs the federal bureaucracy with the advice and assistance of the cabinet. Many of the president's closest advisers work in the Executive Office of the President, which helps the president develop and implement political and governmental goals. Recent presidents have also relied heavily on their vice president for advice.
In 1789, during its first session, Congress created four positions in the executive branch to assist President Washington with running the country. Thomas Jefferson became the secretary of state; Alexander Hamilton, secretary of the treasury; Henry Knox, secretary of war; and Edmund Randolph, attorney general. These four advisers formed the first presidential cabinet.
The Constitution makes no mention of a cabinet, but over the years, Congress has added a number of cabinet-level positions to bring the total to 15.
The members of the cabinet serve at the pleasure of the president, meaning the president is free to dismiss cabinet members without consulting Congress. Rarely will a president fire a cabinet member outright; instead, the president usually asks for a resignation.
Cabinet members have two primary responsibilities. The first is to advise the president in their areas of expertise. The attorney general, for instance, advises the president on legal issues and law enforcement. The secretary of state counsels the president on foreign relations, and the secretary of the treasury gives advice on financial and economic issues.
Presidents frequently hold cabinet meetings in which they ask the members of the cabinet for advice on important issues. Other important presidential advisors, such as the director of the Office of Management and Budget and the White House chief of staff, are often invited to participate in these meetings. While the opinions of the cabinet carry great weight, the president alone has the power to make a final decision.
In addition to advising the president, members of the cabinet hold a second important responsibility: heading an executive department. There are currently 15 executive departments. The cabinet member in charge of the department holds the title of secretary of that department, except for the head of the Department of Justice, who is called the attorney general.
Each executive department has responsibility for a policy area and is divided into specialized subunits. The Department of Health and Human Services, for instance, protects the health of Americans and provides a number of essential health-related services. The department contains many subunits, including the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, Medicare and Medicaid, the Indian Health Service, and the Centers for Disease Control.
The president accomplishes nearly all policy goals through the members of the cabinet and the executive departments they oversee. Although the executive departments are ultimately subject to presidential authority, the president's time and attention are extremely limited. For this reason, members of the cabinet often have a great deal of latitude in running their departments.
Executive Office of the President
Franklin Roosevelt, who was president from 1933 to 1945, presided over a huge expansion of the federal government. To help him run the many new government programs he created, Roosevelt formed the Executive Office of the President (EOP).
Roosevelt used the EOP to coordinate policy across executive departments and to consolidate his control over the executive branch. All presidents since Roosevelt have reorganized the EOP to suit the needs of their administrations. As a result, the EOP has grown substantially in size and importance over time.
The EOP works directly for the president and is only loosely responsible to the rest of the government.
White House Office
The White House, located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, serves as the president's home and workplace.
The president's Oval Office and the offices of most of his close personal and political advisers are in the West Wing of the White House. The staff who work with the president in the West Wing constitute the White House Office.
The White House Office serves as the nerve center of the EOP. The president, without approval from Congress, directly appoints members of the White House Office.
The most powerful position remains that of the president's chief of staff. The chief of staff schedules the president's daily activities and directs the other several hundred members of the White House staff.
The White House Office also includes a number of smaller offices. Some of the more well-known positions include the White House communications director and the White House press secretary, who work together to act as spokespeople for the administration.
Which member of the president's cabinet is responsible for domestic law enforcement?
The attorney general is the head of the Department of Justice. This department administers and enforces the laws of the land.
National Security Council
Foreign policy stands as one the president's foremost responsibilities, and it is the area where Congress gives the president the most latitude.
The National Security Council (NSC), created by President Harry Truman in 1947, allows the president to consult with primary foreign policy and national security advisers. The president also uses the NSC to coordinate national security policy across the government.
The membership of the NSC changes from president to president and depends on the national security matter being considered. Usual attendees include the vice president, the secretaries of state and defense, the director of central intelligence, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and other relevant high-level officials.
Office of Policy Development and National Economic Council
Americans expect modern presidents to propose new policies, not just execute the decisions of Congress. Many of the EOP staff members dedicate their energy to helping the president develop new policy initiatives. Most of these policy specialists work for the Office of Policy Development (OPD).
The OPD leads the formulation, coordination, and implementation of economic and domestic policy. The OPD oversees two important bodies: the Domestic Policy Council, responsible for domestic policy, and the National Economic Council, responsible for economic policy.
Office of Management and Budget
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) exists as the largest and one of the most powerful sections of the EOP. The OMB is responsible for preparing the president's proposed federal budget that is presented annually to Congress, usually in early February.
The federal budget contains a detailed plan of the government's expected income and expenses for the coming fiscal year. The federal fiscal year runs from October 1 through September 30 of the next calendar year.
independent agencies exist separately from the EOP and do not belong to any of the 15 cabinet departments. The three main types of independent agencies are independent regulatory commissions, government corporations, and independent executive agencies.
There are 10 independent regulatory commissions. Each is responsible for regulating a different aspect of the national economy. The National Labor Relations Board, for example, enforces fair labor laws, and the Securities and Exchange Commission regulates the stock market, brokers, and investment practices.
Government corporations are businesses supported by tax dollars because they serve valuable functions for American society. The US Postal Service and Amtrak, for example, are government corporations.
The last group of independent agencies covers a wide range of government services. These agencies include the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
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American Gov't Chapter 11
AP Gov Entrance Exam
Government Unit 2
OTHER SETS BY THIS CREATOR
unit 4: government and the economy
unit 4: economic principles and policies
unit 4: domestic policy
THIS SET IS OFTEN IN FOLDERS WITH...
unit 2: the legislative branch
unit 2: the judicial branch
unit 2: local, state and national government
unit 1: political systems