A2 Politics Presidency

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1. The constitutional powers of the President are EXTENSIVE, but nearly ALL are CHECKED BY CONGRESS

2. Throughout 20th century the power of the president had GROWN in responce to the need for coordinated leadership both at home and abroard 

3. the constitutional system of CHECKS means that successful management of the presidents relationship with congress is crucial

4. the FEDERAL BUREACRACY is responsible for implementing policy and the president needs to ensure it is following his agenda rather then its own

5. the term 'THE TWO PRESIDENCIES' is used to reflect the different levels of restraint the president experiences at home and in foreign policy

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Constitutional Powers

the presidents powers are nearly all set up in ARTICLE 2 of the constitution - the more significant ones are checked by congress

  • COMMANDER IN CHIEF - congress has the check of the sole power to declare war 
  • TO MAKE TREATIES - congress has the check of retification with a two-thirds majority 
  • TO APPOINT senior government official, ambassadors, supreme court justices and justices of the lower federal court - congress has the check of confrirmation 

only powers in article 2 witout check are 

  • to grant pardons 
  • to require in writing the opinion of the principle officer of each of the executive departments 

in section 3 the presidents powers are

  • to make the State of the Union Speech and reccomend legislation 'from time to time' - congress has the check of regecting such legislation 
  • to take care that the laws 'be faithfully executed' - congress has the check of the total control revenue and expenditure 

only powers in secyion 3 without check from congress are:

  • to convene extraordinary sessions of Congress
  • to recieve ambassadors 
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Growth of Presidential Power


two key events - The Great Depression(http://cdncache-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.png) and The Cold War, led to the status and power of modern presidency 

Congressional Government - 18th and 19th centuries was run with this - President relying on Veto 

HOWEVER economy industrialised and society became more COMPLEX - the need for national leadership and policy making becoming apparent 

congress was too divided to provide consistant and coordinated leadership - the PRESIDENT WAS THE ONLY NATIONALLY ELECTED OFFICE ABLE TO MEET THIS NEED

and so began ACTIVIST PRESIDENCY (with Teddy Roosevelt) 

  • president could do anything that was not specifically prohibited to him - was confined by constitutional powers 
  • could control domestic policy 
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Growth of Presidential Power - the great depressio

  • was GD that first saw the balance of the legislative power shift decisively to the P 
  • the nature of the situation created the need for the federal government to have a much more active role than it had plaed hitherto
  • the formulation of broard and coherent policy programmes and the rescue of a complex industrial economy were beyond the disparate and parochial operation of congress
  • the programme of polices known as the NEW DEAL (roosevelt initiated) extended the reach of president and the executive branch  into the management of the economy 
    • increased the size of the federal beauracracy through the creation of bodies such as:
      • the securities and exchange commission
      • the national labour board 
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Growth of President Power - The Cold War

the emergance of the USA as one of the 2 superpowers had same effect as GD on foreign policy 

in a period BEFORE WWII congress had a significant role in shaping foriegn policy 

  • through the passage of NEUTRALITY ACTS 


President TRUMAN set precident of taking significant military action through his power as commander in chief with only INFORMAL CONSULTATION WITH CONGRESS

  • ordered military forces in Korea in 1950 (in responce to the invasion of south by Soviet forces) 

post war period also saw creation of 'national security state', the National Security act 1947 created National security council and the Intelligence Agency, reorganised Military into department of defence with its headquarters in the PENTAGON in virginia 

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  • a main reason for the expansion of the presidents role was because of his commander in chief role 
  • as well as the roles implied in ARTICLE 2 


  • television and film have given rise to a cult of the president 
  • portraid as ever-present, all powerful 
  • the weekly radio address began by Roosevelt esablished a public president link 


  • are an asses 
  • his role means people have respect for the office of president which exeeds UK PM
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The 'Imperial Presidency'

The power of the president grew to such an extent in the post-war period that Arthur Schlesinger made the term 'Imperial presidency' - that the P had cast aside the checks and balances 

  • Nixon - abroard conducted secret war in cambodia and at home had refused to spend money mandated by Congress - supported this theory 
  • however - created congressional reaction in the war powers act and the budget and impoundment contol act - intended to rein in abuses of the system 

the debate revieved to some extent during the president of GEORGE W. BUSH                                

  • the terrorist attacks of september 2001 led to the president to take a series of measures, including the detention og US citizens indefinetly as enemy combatants and a NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY surveillance programme 
    • was checked by a succession of supreme court cases
      •        hamdan v rumsfeld - held that the military commisions it had created to try Guantanamo Bay detinees was unlawful                             
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Relationship with Congress

from 20th century onwards the President has set the political agenda and the rest of the system is left to respond to it 

however nature of a fragmented system with shared powers means that the president cannot act alone

  • there is a traditional lack of party discipline in Congress
  • the separation of powers means that congressmen and woman stand on their own record for re-election and their willingness to support the president depends on how far that support will aid their own re-election prospects 
    • the president cannot automatically count on the support of even members of his own party
    • the healthcare legislation passed in 2010 showed this 
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Factors effecting relation with congress - Popular

  • high approval poll rating give the P increased authority and may create a political cost for members of congress opposing a popular president 
  • a poor rating (certainly below 40%) will weaken the authority 
    • president BUSH was at below 40% for much of his 2nd term - blighted the prospects of his second term agenda 
    • HOWEVER even with approval ratings in the low 30%'s the principle cause (Iraq) congress was uable to effect any significant change in Iraq policy; THE SURGE was announced in Jan 2007 after the election of a Democratic Congress pledged ti reduce troop numbers 
      • the bill passed by both houses to change policy was vetoed by the president 
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Factors effecting relation - Partisanship

President = much more effective and powerful with his own party controlling both houses of congress than not 

however although party congrol may be significant, it is not suffifiant to guarentee trouble-free passage for the P legislation 

republican congress are more favorable of republican P's than Democratic congress of a Dem P 

  • P CLINTON and OBAMA both found difficulty passing key legislation through chambers controlled by their own party 

 for medicare and no child left behind Clinton relied on Democratic support 

partisanship effects the power of the president 

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Factors effecting relation - events

unfroseen events have an influencial effect 

  • Oklahoma City bombings in 1995 occured when P Clinton was on the defence agianst a reublican congressional leadership which was acting like a parliamentary majority. 
  • the bombing had the effect of putting the president centre state and enabled him to regain the initiative. 
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Factors effecting relation with Congress

will seek to use his PERSONAL SKILLS  of charm and persuasion on individual members of congress.

  • In 2010 Tax renewal negotiations - P called for a meet with dozens of senate and house democrats etc to win(http://cdncache-a.akamaihd.net/items/it/img/arrow-10x10.png) approval 


  • first used with Roosevelt 
  • can use the media to advantage - televised national adress, publicised local town hall meetings 


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Ways Around congress

Recess Appointments - means president can avoid the need for the Senate Confirmation 

  • only last for the life of congress 
  • maximum of 2 years 

White House Appointments - dont rewuire Senate confirmaton - 'CZARS' exersice more influence

Executive Orders - bypass congress 

  • usually amount to the creation of new policy 
  • Clinton lifted the ban on gay people in the military through executive order 
  • President Bush imposed restrictions on stem cell research - lasted till Obama lifted them 

Executive Agreements - can be used instead of treaties 

  • Reagan made more than 2,800 executuve agreements 
  • attempts to rein them in have been largely unsuccessfull; US v. Belmont (1997) and US v. Pink (1942) upheld the right of the president to make executive agreemenrs 

Signing Statements - official documents which the president provides his legal interpretation of a bill

  • G.W Bush asserted his right to ignore bills which (in his view) unconstitutionally infringed his authority as president  
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Relationship with Federal Bureaucracy

it is responcible for converting the P's policies into action, success of which reflects on him


  • bureaucracy has experience and expertise in its area of operation - unlikely to be matched by any elected politician 
  • it has its own interests which do not coincide with its political master 
  • it is aided in the pursuit of these goal by the nature of legislation which in place will be vague or ambiguous and the implementation of which requires interpretations by the bereaucracy 
    • may cause difficulties or embarrasement for president 
  • there are divided loyalties - as part of the executive branch its function is to serve P but it is dependent on CONGRESS for its exsistance and funding 
    • power of incumbancy means CONGRESS likely to be around longer than P 
    • bureaucracy can form alliances with congressional committees and PG to form iron triangles 
  • Lack of coordination - multiple agencies (EG) have a stake in foriengn policy; the State Department, the Defence Department, the NSC, CIA
    • ALL have different priorities - history of tension between STATE AND DEFENCE DEPARTMENT - in Bush first term - rivalry between secretaries Powell and Rumsfield 
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Presidential Resources (to control Bureacracy)


  • consists of all the heads of the executive departments 
    • are all P appointments 
    • no nominee has been rejected since John Towers nomination for Defence Sec in 1989
      • although a number have since dropped out of the preliminary stages of prosess - TOM DASCHLE - P Obamas initial choice for health sec 
  • cabinet has symbolic function of looking like america in gender, race and religion 
    • obamas determination to have a cabinet that 'LOOKS LIKE AMERICA' 

EXECUTIVE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT - set up 1939 as result of the Brownlow Committee reccomendations 

  • originally EOP comprised just WHITE HOUSE OFFICE and BUREAU OF BUDGET - now has around 2000 employees and a budget of several hundred million 
  • provides support for P in policy development 
  • Chief of Staff = highest ranking memb of EOP and is responcible for it meeting P needs 
  • since NIXSON/KISSINGER vera - the NSA has been increasingly influencial in foriegn policy relative to the State department - FP with Bush was dominated by Cheney Rumsfled partnership and Condoleezza Rice as NSA was relatively subordinate
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Presidential resources cont


  • P has power over several thousand appointments and can ensure political sympathisers are in KEY POSTS 
  • HOWEVER this is to some extent outweighed by the need to balance political loyalty and competence and the P may find it difficult to find suitably experienced appointees from the campaign supporters who expect to be rewarded 


  • the P reoganisation of the Bureaucracy depends on approval of congress 
  • most recent major reorganisation 
    • illustrative of the problems P may face - prolonged battle between P and congressional Democrats 

creation of HOMELAND SECURITY department was the most far-reaching of the Bush administrations domestic resonces to the attacks of September 2001

  • brought together a wide variety of federal agencies previously disperced in other departments 
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The 'two presidencies'

term coined in 1960's by Aron Wildavsky as a summary of the thesis that there exsists a marked difference in scale between the constraints operating on the P in Domestic and Foeign policy 

the struggle between Cong and P won by P

  • since WW2 has assumed control over the direction of foreign policy - congress will defer to P 

even in military deployments the P is by no means a free agent 

  • Since Vietnam P have been very aware of public opinion and electoral consequences of adverse rection to casualties
    • Clinton was cautious about deployment of ground troops in kosovo
    • Obama set a time limit on 'surge' in Afganistan 2010 to reassure public he wasnt making an open-ended agreement
  • the P is partly dependent of the advice on strategy of his top military commanders 
  • SC will usually defer the commander in chief & rarely agree to hear cases with FP
    • HOWEVER Bush suffered set backs at the hands of the court - the military tribunals set up to try Guantanamo suspects were declared unlawful in Samdan v Rumsfeld 2006 
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Congress and Libya

the P did not seek congressional approval at the begnining of the operation 

  • claiming that because nthere were no ground troops involved and that A was a supportive role it did not constitute 'hostilities' as the term used in the War Powers Act 
  • the approval of congress for military action did not apply

congress floundered 

  • the senate became so divided over the issue that after an initial vote in March calling for the possible establishment of a no-fly zone it proved impossible to formulate a resolution to vote on 
  • the house failed to make a meaningful impact on policy - refusing all 
  • 'no going forward, no going back and they tied on standing stil' whitehouse spokesman 
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Vice President


has had steadily increasing influence: 

  • expansion in the reach of the federal govt - essential for VP to take some responcibilty 
    • has become central to administration - is now a member of cabinet 
  • rise of partisan govt in congress has made it vital for the President to maintain/create party majority 
    • VP have frequently had more congressional experience that P's - given them a key role in maintaining party loyalty 
  • since ratification of the 22nd ammendment in 1951 - formally limiting P to 2 terms
    • VP has been seen as 'president in waiting' - many become next P nominee 
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Formal Powers of VP

powers allicated:

  • to be the presiding officer of the Senate 
  • to break a tied vote in the Senate - used on crucial votes such as Al Gore's vote in 1993 to pass the presidents budget 
  • to count and then announce the votes of the electoral college - famously Al Gore was required to announce his own defeat 
  • to assume the office of P should P die
  • to act as P should P make a written declaration to congress that he is temporarily unable to carry out his duties 
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Dick Cheney

labled 'most powerful VP in history' 

  • close relation with P - had known the Bush family for decades 
  • his experience in washington - had been pary of Nixon administration, P Fords chief of staff, a house of representative for Wyoming for 10 yrs & defence secretary under the first P Bush
  • his extencive contacts throughout bureaucracy 
  • lack of ambition - at no stage did he have to consider how his or the P decisions would effect his future

Cheney ranged across entire administration

  • had been concerned about the erosion of P power after Watergate - premoted its expansion, especially after 09/11
  • persoanlly premoted the use of unauthorised surveillance, robust interrogation and the creation of military commissions to try prisioners
  • he was closely involved in administration plans to invade iraq 
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Cheney cont .

  • he oversaw lists of potential SC nominees
  • shaped and pushed through Bush tax cuts 
  • constantly sought to relax/ignore environmental regulations 
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Joe Biden

came across as affable and willing to please - proved usefulness:

  • his candour made him seem more of s msn of the people 
  • has an unmatched range of contacts & understanding in congress 
  • on foriegn policy - he contributed vigorously to policy debate 
    • played large part in discussion on the surge in afgan 
  • in 2012 VP was able to influence policy by forcing P hand on GAY MARRIAGE 
  • is a tireless fundraiser for Dem candidates 
  • has been champion of specific policy areas - Obama appointed him to lead the fun violence task force in DEC 2012 after NEWTON SHOOTINGS 


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