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United States Constitution | Study Guide

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United States Constitution | Article 2, Sections 1–4 | Summary

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Summary

Article 2, Section 1

The president of the United States holds executive power and shall serve a term of four years along with the vice president. The process of electing the president is described. Each individual state appoints electors. A state has the same number of electors as it does representatives and senators, and the electors cannot hold public office at the time. The state can decide how their electors are chosen, and those electors cast ballots for the president and vice president. The ballots are counted by the president of the Senate, and whoever has the majority becomes president. If there is a tie, the House of Representatives votes between the tied candidates to choose the president. The vice president is the candidate with the next highest number of votes. All of the electors must cast their votes on the same day.

The president must be at least 35 years old and have been a citizen for 14 years. If the president should die, resign, or be removed from office, the vice president becomes president. If the vice president is also removed, Congress has the authority to appoint a successor until the next president can be elected. The president receives a salary while in office, and that salary must stay the same the entire time the president is in office. Finally, the president must swear an oath to protect and uphold the Constitution.

Article 2, Section 2

The president is commander in chief of the military and has the power to grant pardons. The president also has the power to make treaties but needs a two-thirds majority of the Senate to concur. He has the power to nominate Supreme Court judges, ambassadors, and other important official officers, which have to be confirmed by the Senate. The president may also fill vacant Senate seats during recess, but his appointments end after the next Senate session.

Article 2, Section 3

The president must give reports to Congress during their term. The president is also granted the power to call the House and the Senate together in a special session in exceptional circumstances, and the president represents the United States when meeting officials from other nations.

Article 2, Section 4

Section 4 outlines the reasons the president and any civil officer can be removed from office: "Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors."

Analysis

The second article of the Constitution primarily focuses on outlining the parameters of the executive branch of the government and on the process of voting for a president. Basically, Article 1 creates the legislative branch of the government while Article 2 creates the executive branch.

Multiple amendments have been made to the voting process since the original drafting of the Constitution, and the system used to vote for the president and vice president today is somewhat different from the one the framers initially envisioned.

Section 1, which primarily deals with the process of voting the president and the vice president into office, has seen some changes since it was originally written. Initially, whoever had the most votes became president, and whoever had the next highest number of votes automatically became vice president. The 12th Amendment changed the election process so the two offices are voted on separately, with designated candidates for each position.

Sections 2, 3, and 4 primarily deal with the powers granted to the president of the United States. One crucial power that the president is given is the position of commander in chief over the military. This is significant because the president is technically a civilian (as opposed to being a member of the military), so this clause gives a civilian control over the country's military forces. The framers hoped this would help keep the military in check and minimize the danger of a military government being installed in place of the civilian one.

The third section of Article 2 plants the seed for what has since become the traditional State of the Union address. The president could write reports for Congress on the state of affairs in the nation, but starting with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson (1856–1924), it has become traditional for the president to present the report to the first joint session of Congress held in a new year. The Constitution doesn't specify what form the president's report should take, only that regular reports are required.

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