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Divided government

One party controls the White House and one party controls one or both houses of government.

Unified government

The same party controls the White House and both houses of government.


The inability of the government to act because rival parties control different parts of the government.

Electoral college

The people chosen to cast each state's votes in a presidential election. Each state can cast one electoral vote for each senator and representative it has. The District of Columbia has three electoral votes, even though it cannot elect a representative or Senator.

Pyramid structure (include pros & cons of structure)

A president's subordinates report to him through a clear chain of command headed by a chief of staff. A pyramid structure proides for an orderly flow of information and decisions, but does so at the risk of isolating or misinforming the president.

Circular structure (include pros & cons of structure)

Seceral of the president's assistants report directly to him. The circular method has the cirtue o giving the president a great deal of infomation, but at the price of confusion and conflict amond cabinet secretaries and assistants.

Ad hoc structure (include pros & cons of structure)

Seceral subordinates, cabinet officers and committees report directly tothe president on different matters. An ad hoc struture allows great dlecibility, minimizes bureaucratic inertia, and generates ideas and information from disparate channgels, but it risks cutting the president off from the government officials who are ultimately responsible for translating presidential decisions into policy proposals and administrative action.


The heads of the fifteen executie branch departments of the federal government.

Bully pulpit

The president's use of his prestige and visibility to guide or enthuse the American public.

Veto message

A message from the president to Congress stating that he will not sign a bill it has passed. Must be produced within ten days of the bill's passage.

Pocket veto

A bill fails to become law because the president did not sign it within ten days before Congress adjourns.

Line item veto

An executive's ability to block a particular procision in a bill passed by the legislature.

Executive privilege

The right to keep executive communications confidential, especially if they relate to national security.

U.S. v Nixon

In 1973 the Supreme Court for the first time met the issue directly. A federal special prosecutor dought tape recordings of White House conversations between President Nixon and his advisers as part of his investigation of the Watergate scandal. In the case, the Supreme Cout, by a vote of eight to zero, held that while there may be a sound basis for the claim of executive privilege, especially where sensitive military or diplomatic matters are incolced, there is no "absolute unqualified Presidential privelege of immunity from judicial process under all circumstances."

Budget Reform Act of 1974

Requires the president to spend all appropriated funds unless he first tells Congress what funds he wishes not to spend and Congress, within forty five days, agrees to delete the items. If he wishes simply to delay spending the money, he need only informa Congress, but Congress then can refure the delay by passing a resolution requiring the immediate release of the money. Federal courts have upheld the rule that the president must spend, without delay for policy reasons, money that Congress has appropriated.

Legislative veto

The authority of Congress to block apresidential action after it has taken place. The Supreme Court has held that Congress does not have this power.


Charges against a president approved by a majority of the House of Representatives.

Lame duck

A person still in office after he or she has lost a big for reelection.

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