Reading Questions: The American Presidency
Article II of the Constitution vested the executive power in an independent, unitary
President of the United States. Much of Article II is devoted to setting forth how the
President will be selected. As opposed to Congress or the people selecting the
President, the Constitution established the "electoral college" as an indirect means of
electing the President thus making the executive only indirectly responsible to the
electorate. Presidential independence of Congress was strengthened in the 19
as party conventions displaced the less democratic caucus system and nominations of
presidential candidates became more democratized; the continued democratization of
presidential selection with the eventual adoption of the system of primary elections in
century further enhanced presidential independence.
Congressional power is, in
part, a function of its capacity to effectively represent important groups and
constituencies in society, but its position and power have suffered as presidents came
increasingly to be seen as representatives of popular interests. In response to some
slipping in its power vis-à-vis the presidency and particularly when divided government
raises the political stakes of inter-branch conflict, Congress has reformed internal
institutions and otherwise sought to compete better.
The president's expressed powers, as defined by Article II, Sections 2 and 3, include
military, judicial, diplomatic, executive, and legislative powers.
a.a) As "Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States,
and of the Militia of the several States," the President possesses
military powers and is head of the nation's security and intelligence
agencies; these powers also include deploying troops to enforce
federal decisions and declarations of "states of emergency."
The president exercises judicial power when he grants pardons,
reprieves and amnesty.
a.c)As "head of state," the president has the diplomatic powers to make
treaties (though their ratification requires Senate approval), receive
ambassadors, and create executive agreements.
The president also possesses executive powers that include the
duty to see that all laws are faithfully executed and the power to
appoint principal executive officers and federal judges (though this
requires Senate approval); as chief executive, the president enjoys a
power known as "executive privilege" which makes confidential the
communications between the president and his advisers and adds to
a.e)Charged by the Constitution with "giving to the Congress Information
on the State of the Union" and the power to veto legislation, presidents
also have powers in the legislative process; these legislative powers
have transformed and expanded to include legislative initiative, the
ability to bring a legislative agenda before Congress, and the issuance
of executive orders that instruct the executive branch and often have