Presidential power is the ability of the president to affect certain functions that are required of him as President. The constitution provides for some of the powers of the President while other powers are only implied by his position. The powers that are provided in the constitution are formal powers while those that are not, are called informal powers. The formal powers may include commanding the armed forces, veto power, convening the Congress, power to appoint, and making treaties. Informal powers involve, entering into executive agreements, persuasion, and issuing executive orders among others. Therefore, the United States President enjoys numerous powers due to the position he holds.
The President has the power to abstain from approving a joint resolution or a bill hence preventing it from becoming law. This kind of power is known as Veto power (Wilson 31). A bill that has been passed by the Congress has 10 days for consideration by the president for signing (Fathers 9). In some circumstances the president may return the bill to the house it originated from with a clear explanation of why he vetoed the bill. This is known as a regular veto. The two houses can have a two-thirds vote to override the regular veto. In other circumstances, the President may refuse to sign a bill into law while the Congress has adjourned sittings, resulting in a pocket veto. In a pocket veto, there is no chance to override the veto because none of the houses is in session.
The President also has the power to command the armed forces. In the U.S Constitution, Article 2 Section 2 is clear that "the President shall be the commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several states when called into the actual service of the United States" (Fathers 10). However, the extent to which the U.S President can exercise these powers has been the subject of contention for decades. Some scholars argue that the President can only declare war with the approval of the Congress while others argue he does not need congressional approval to declare war. Case in point, the administrations of Presidents Nixon, Johnson, and Kennedy sent troops to war in the Southeast of Asia for almost a decade without the approval of the Congress. The War Powers Resolution of 1973 put an end to this trend by requiring the President to seek congressional approval before going to war (Mckay 22). Most U.S Presidents to date have considered the War Powers Resolution to be unconstitutional.
The President is allowed by the constitution under unique circumstances to ask the Congress to convene a sitting of the Congress for a special session. In the United States history, this power has been used only 27 times with only four of those coming after the 20th Amendment. One of the special sessions to have been convened by Presidents of the U.S includes the 1939s isolationist spirit (Mckay 41). The U.S legislated laws that prohibited the sales of ammunition to countries that were engaged in war. Roosevelt convened a special sitting in the year 1939 to overturn these legislations in order to provide arms to allies of America in Europe.
The President also enjoys appointment power conferred to him by the Constitution Article II, Section 2; Clause 2 provides that he or she can appoint Supreme Court judges, public ministers, ambassadors, as well as other officers of the U.S Congress (Fathers 21). These appointments have to be approved by the Senate. Despite the presidential appointees requiring confirmation by the Senate, the U.S Congress has no power to eliminate or limit the president's mandate to appoint. For instance, if a Supreme Court judge makes a decision to resign in order to create more family time in the latter years of their career, his position is taken temporarily by the President who makes a new appointment in due time. This appointment, however, will have to be approved by the Senate.
The constitution also confers upon the President the power to pardon individuals who have committed crimes against the country. According to Article II, Section 2 of the U.S constitution, he or she has the "Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment" (Fathers 28). The constitution provides for pardoning of federal crimes but denies him the power to pardon crimes relating to civil cases. For instance, if a long-time friend of the president commits the act of crime and the President knows that his friend used to be well-mannered, law-abiding citizen he cannot exercise his pardoning power to release his convicted friend from jail. This is because rape is a violation of civil rights and such offenses cannot be pardoned by the President. However, he can pardon other offenses such as theft of public property.
The U.S President enjoys the power to make treaties relating to foreign policy. Entering into treaties is a power that is embedded in the constitution. The President, according to Article II, Section 2, clause 2, has the "Power, by and with the Advice of the Senate, to make treaties" (Hollick 32). This means that he has to seek the approval of two-thirds of the Senate before entering into any treaties. The power of entering into a treaty is that it can surpass existing federal laws. This is the reason why the Senate has to approve the treaty. The United States may enter into a treaty with China for the importation of certain goods to both countries without import tax imposed. The power of a treaty is that both parties will be bound by the law to honor their sides of the agreement.
It is provided in foreign policy that the President can enter into executive agreements (Hollick 36). These are not supported by the constitution but still, there is a general understanding that the President is the only person who can make such agreements. Therefore executive agreements are different for treaties in that treaties are constitutionally authorized and require the approval of the Senate. Suppose the U.S President makes an executive agreement with the President of China that citizens of the U.S will not be mistreated in China, they are not lawfully bound hence one party may fail to honor the agreement without any major consequences.
In many circumstances, the President may be required to use his power of persuasion to push certain agendas. This is not a power that is conferred by the constitution but it is still very important when it comes to convincing members of the Congress to pass certain bills. He asserts his authority in federal bureaucracy matters by using this method. Former President Obama used this power occasionally. Obama' secretary of defense 2009-2011 was Leon Panetta. It was mostly Obama's persuasion that led to the orders for the Killing of Osama bin Laden (Mckay 61). He could not execute such a heavy task without the input of his superior. The President cannot exercise direct control over some of the government officials hence he has to depend on his persuasive power for them to consider his wishes.
Although it is not provided for in law, the President can issue an "executive order." An executive order refers to "a directive from the President that is just as powerful as a federal law." For example, among the first executive orders of Donald Trump upon assuming office was the signing of a document that weakened the Obama care as he pondered on an alternative. The executive order allowed all possible actions within the law to be taken to reduce unnecessary regulatory and economic Affordable Care Act burdens while creating a flexible healthcare market. However, if the Congress finds an executive order unpopular, it can come up with a new law to override it. All President starting with George Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt have used executive orders during their time. Therefore, the U.S President has the informal power to use issue executive orders.
Overall, the President of the United States enjoys a significant amount of power owing to the position he holds. Some of his powers are provided in the constitution while others are not. Formal powers include commanding the armed forces, veto power, convening the Congress, appointment power, making treaties and pardoning crimes against the federal law. These are the powers that have provisions in the U.S constitution. Other powers that he enjoys without constitutional provisions include persuasive power, the power to make executive agreements, and the power to issue an executive order. Therefore, the U.S president is clearly a very powerful person who has an influence on both domestic and foreign policy due to the powers conferred on him.
Fathers, Founding. The United States Constitution. The Floating Press, 2014.
Hollick, Ann L. US Foreign Policy and the Law of the Sea. Princeton University Press, 2017.
McKay, David. American politics and society. John Wiley & Sons, 2017.
Wilson, Woodrow. Constitutional government in the United States. Routledge, 2017.
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