The president

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  • Created by: Harry
  • Created on: 11-06-14 12:02

What are the powers of the president?

  • Propose legislation - mainly through State of The Union Address but can be anytime
  • Submit the annual budget - drawn up by the Office of Management and Budget
  • Sign legislation
  • Veto legislation - get rid of bills he doesn't want or use the powerful threat
  • Act as chief executive - Article II grants him all executive power
  • Nominate executive branch officials - there are many places to fill and must be confirmed in the senate by a simple majority
  • Nominate all federal judges - Supreme, Federal trial (district) and appeal (circuit) courts
  • Act as a commander-in-chief - Constitution gives congress the power to declare war but not been used since 1941
  • Negotiate treaties - checked by the Senate (two-thirds majority)
  • Pardon - Nixon pardoned 926 people in 5 1/2 years
  • Head of state - takes on role of comforter-in-chief/mourner-in-chief in times of tragedy
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What are the powers of the vice-president?

  • Presiding officer of the senate
  • Power to break the tied vote in the Senate
  • Counts and announces the result of the Electoral College votes
  • Becomes president upon death, resignation or removal of the president from office e.g. has happened 9 times
  • Becomes acting president if the president is declared disabled
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Why has the role of the vice-president increased?

  • Presidents saw them as a source of help
  • List has become more distinguished e.g. of the 11 vice-presidents between 1953 and 2008, 4 went on to become president
  • Key role in legislative liaison with Congress
  • Party worker, electioneer and fundraiser
  • Major spokesperson for the administration
  • Play the Washington-insider role, guiding him round the pitfalls of Washington politics e.g. Biden and Obama
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What is the Executive Office of the President?

  • The top staff agencies on the White House that give the president help and advice in carrying out the major duties of his office
  • Its pimary functions are coordination, advice giving and personal management
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EXOP under Obama (January 2013)

  • Council of Economic Advisers
  • Council of Environmental Quality
  • National Security Council
  • Office of Administration
  • Office of Managment and Budget
  • Office of National Day Control Policy
  • Office of Science and Technology Policy
  • Office of the United States Trade Representative
  • Office of the vice-president
  • White House Office
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Why was the EXOP set up?

  • The Great Depression
  • The Cold War
  • The president had too many demands and overload became a real danger
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What are the limits on presidential power?

  • Congress
  • The Supreme Court
  • Public opinion
  • Pressure groups
  • The media e.g. 24 hours news cycles
  • The federal bureaucracy
  • Party unity
  • Crises e.g. The Iranian hostage crisis under Carter
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Congressional limits on presidential power

  • Amend, delay or reject legislative proposals
  • Override the presidential veto
  • Amend his budgetary requests throught the power of the purse
  • Check his commander-in-chief power
  • Refuse to ratify treaties (Senate only)
  • Reject nominations made by the president (Senate only)
  • Investigate actions and policies
  • Impeachment
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The Supreme Courts limits on presidential power

Declare actions unconstitutional e.g. US Vs. Richard M. Nixon (1974)

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Public opinion limits on presidential power

  • A high public rating can help a president survive if going through scandal e.g. Bill Clinton
  • Bush's approval rose from 51% in the first week to 88% in the second week after 9/11
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Pressure group's limits on presidential power

Can mobilise public opinion for or against the president e.g. Obama in 2013 tried to bring in gun reform but was quashed partly by the NRA

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The federal bureaucracy as a limit on presidential

  • He is one person in a branch employing over 3 million civil servants
  • Some presidents have trouble getting state governments to accept reforms e.g. 1950s civil rights reforms in the 1950s
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What is the federal bureaucracy?

The unelected, administrative part of the executive branch of the federal government, made up of departments, agencies and commissions that carry out policy on day-to-day basis

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What are the executive departments?

  • There are 15 with the heads known as the ‘secretary of…’
  • Made up of two tiers: tier one – State, Treasury, Defence and Justice and tier two includes the rest
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What are the executive agencies?

  • Similar to departments but heads aren’t ex-officio members of the cabinet
  • Some agencies such as housing and Veteran’s affair have been upgraded to departmental status
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What is the independent regulatory commission?

Administratively independent from all three branches of government

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What are government corporations?

Perform commercial functions that might have otherwise been carried out by the private sector e.g. USPS created in 1970

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What are the functions of the federal bureaucracy?

  • Creating rules – write all of the laws and decide how they operate
  • Executing laws – Must see that laws are carried out and will carry them out within their own policy areas

  • Adjudication – disputes will arise when carrying the other two functions and it is their job to stop this

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What are the problems with the federal bureaucracy

  • Clientelism – tend to serve the interests of those they are supposed to be overseeing
  • Bureaucratic imperialism – some agencies try and expand their powers and responsibilities at the expense of other agencies
  • Have a narrow focus on own goals rather than the administration as a whole
  • Departmental interests > National interests
  • Often ignore who will be affected by the rules they implement
  • Seen as inhuman and over-committed to the process
  • Agencies work slowly and cautiously and know to resist change (bad for new presidents)
  • Iron triangles
  • Going native
  • Inefficiency – pay is determined on length of service rather than job performance
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What is going native?

Where political appointees cease to be advocates for the politician who appointed them and instead become advocates for the bureaucracies and special interest associated with their policy area

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How does Congress check the power of the FB?

  • Has the power to establish, merge or abolish departments and agencies e.g. 2002, 170,000 civil servants from 22 agencies were taken and made into the Department of Homeland Security
  • The ‘power of the purse’ means they finance agencies and departments
  • Has the power of oversight to investigate federal departments and agencies
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How does the president check the power of the FB?

Modern-day presidents find it nearly impossible to control the federal bureaucracy

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Is the president’s cabinet important?


  • Contains some of the most important people in the executive branch
  • All the heads of the 15 executive departments are automatically members
  • The president always chairs the meetingsSome presidents hold frequent meetings e.g. Carter and Reagan
  • Cabinet meetings can fulfil a number of important functions, both for the president and for cabinet offices
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Is the president’s cabinet important?


  • Article II of the constitution vests ‘all executive power’ in the president
  • There is no doctrine of collective responsibility
  • The members are neither equals nor rivals of the president
  • The president often views members with some suspicion as they have divided loyalties
  • Meetings are often boring and cover nothing of great importance
  • The Executive Office of the president is the main source of advice giving for the president
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