- The President is an extremely powerful individual in America.
- However - within US politics - in order to ensure that no group could gain too much power, the separation of powers was re-enforced by a series of checks and balances.
- The powers of the President are checked by Congress and Supreme Court to ensure that the President is looking out for all individuals of the USA.
- If either were to find that the President is not acting in the best interests of the people of the USA, the Congress and the Supreme Court have the power to check his actions.
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Power of Patronage
- One power the President has is the power of Patronage which allows him to appoint individuals to high positions within Government such as that of a Supreme Court Justice or a US ambassador.
- So far, Barack Obama has been able to appoint his first Hispanic Justice to the bench.
- Any such appointment must be approved by the Senate.
- The Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life which therefore means the President cannot get rid of them.
- Many President have had to live with a Supreme Court who had alternative views on the laws of the USA.
- These Presidents had to soften their policies in the face of Supreme Court meaning that powers of the President can be restricted due to not being allowed full control over the law.
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- Another Power aspect of the Presidential role comes through the State of the Union address where the President outlines his focus for what he would like to see implemented in the next year.
- For example, in his 2011 address, President Barack Obama expressed his wish to see tighter gun laws.
- However, the President cannot directly propose Bills - the Congress has to submit them.
- On the other hand, the President does have the power to approve Bills passed by Congress.
- When both Houses have passed a Bill they can send it to the President for his approval.
- If he agrees - the President signs it and it becomes law.
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- If the President does not agree - he can use his veto.
- There are 2 ways in which the President can exercise his veto.
- Usually the President sends the Bill back with explanations as to why it has not passed.
- The Bill then needs a 2/3 majority in both Houses to overturn the veto.
- This demonstrates substantial Presidential power as the overturning of a Bill is rare.
- There are occasions when a 2/3 majority in both Senate and House can override a veto, as was in case in November 2007 (a Bill authorising water projects) however, this was the first successive overturning of a veto since 1998.
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- The President can bypass Congress in certain circumstances by issuing an Executive Order.
- This has the power of a law but does not need the congress so sanction it.
- Therefore, the President can make laws in the USA with no check from Congress.
- In his first administration, President Bush issued 173 Executive Orders.
- Executive Orders were originally designed to give the President powers at a time of emergency.
- The administration of President Bush announced that the powers of an Executive Order would be retained for as long as there is a threat of terrorism and the USA is engaged in its war of terrorism.
- The fallout from events of September 11th 2001 could be therefore be seen as the extension of Presidential power and control of the people of the USA.
- However, Executive Orders can often be shelved and declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court which therefore shows the President is kept in check by Supreme Court and his power may be limited.
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Commander - in - Chief
- One of the main Presidential roles is in the area of national security - where the President is Commander - in Chief of the armed forces and is in charge of the defence of the USA.
- He can order the use of troops overseas without declaring war.
- However, in order to declare war officially - he must get the approval of the Congress showing his power is kept in check.
- The Iraq War is a recent example of a time when both the President's powers and those of Congress were tested.
- The President can also make treaties with other Nations(e.g Chemical Weapons ban) but must get the approval of Senate before any treaty becomes official.
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USA Patriot Act
- Several laws passed since 2001 have shifted power to a significant extent from the individual in the USA, to the Government and in particular - the office of the President.
- TheUSA Patriot Act gives the Attorney General the power to order the detention of anyone who he has "reasonable grounds" to suspect is a terrorist or is linked to terrorism.
- No proof is necessary.
- With an Executive Order issued in 2001, the President gave the Attorney General the power to overrule the courts if they order the release of someone deemed to be a terrorist.
- Therefore, with little check - the President can be seen as having more power.
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