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Does the President Have Too Much Power?

News & Politics, Political-Opinion

Mr. President, the Executive, and Their Power

In the United States the government depends on the ability of checks and balances to even out what one branch can do over another. In the early days of the Constitution it was not unheard of to see a weak president, which has nothing to do with opinion on the President’s ideals, and has everything to do with the moving of legislation (blocking and passing). Since the New Deal the United States saw an era of strong Presidency’s regardless of how affairs were conducted. To understand this shift in the balance one must take a look at the Presidency as well as the Legislative process.

The Presidency

Article II of the Constitution stated how the President will be elected. During the writing of the Constitution the Framer’s were adamant on creating a Presidency that had the ability to energize the legislative process. This ensured that no stand still within the Legislative Branch took place. Though they took the stance of a strong and energetic President, they wanted the President’s power to be check on a consistent basis. The Electoral college, one of the ways the Framer’s checked the Presidential power, acted as the voting system for the President. This is a type of indirect election where electors are selected by state legislatures and voted within a closed election in the House of Representatives. Direct Election, where the constituents directly voted for the President, created a very independent and powerful Presidency that the Framer’s feared.

Though the system worked in checking the balance of power within the Presidency, it did not afford equal representation due to the Electoral College’s nature of the caucus system. This system nominated the delegates for President within Congress and forced the nominees to be completely beholden to the party’s leaders in Congress. If elected, that nominee would feel extreme pressure by the party during their presidency. So the system changed to the national nominating convention: a system that was completely separate from Congress and afforded more representation for party’s that were in the minority. This afforded the President more power because it gave the President independence from Congress. (Ginsberg, 517-519)

The Caucus System Explained:

 

Types of Power

Over the years the President has been granted specific powers that are either expressed, delegated, or inherent. These powers are stated in Article II of the United States Constitution.

  • Expressed Powers- Expressed powers are the powers directly granted by the Constitution.
  • Delegated Powers- These powers are granted to the President by Congress.
  • Inherent Powers- These are the inferred powers of the President. (Not specifically stated in the Constitution)Inherent Power, The Road to a Strong Presidency

Inherent Power, The Road to a Strong Presidency

 

The Presidency undergone a pretty substantial change in the 1900’s. One change was the President’s increased power when declaring war. This power is specifically vested in the Constitution to Congress. The President, in the name of Harry S. Truman, acted without the go ahead from Congress when invading Korea in 1950. Truman stated that it is an inherent power of the President to send America’s military might where the President saw fit. Congress approved of Truman’s actions due to the necessity of the situation. This became the standard for declaring war in the future. Congress in the 1970’s did try to decrease the President’s inherent power regarding war by passing the War Powers Resolution. This stated that the President had to inform Congress of any plans for military deployment and stated that forces must be withdrawn within sixty days if there is no congressional authorization.

President’s have ignored this Resolution, however. Along with this power, Article IV, Section 4 provided the President the ability to protect States using Federal troops when faced with invasion and domestic violence.

This can only be done by the request of state legislatures or the states governor.Military emergencies have led to quick action by Congress and the President to give more power to the Executive. Military emergencies have led to quick action by Congress and the President to give more power to the Executive.

For example: After September 11, 2001, Bush had the Patriot Act passed which greatly expanded the use of surveillance by the government. This Act also created the Department of Homeland Security. (Ginsberg, 519-521)

The increase in Presidential power continued through a number of areas such as the executive agreement. As stated above the President must obtain the Senate’s approval to draw out Treaties with other Countries. However, President’s begun to utilize the executive agreement to expand the power of the Presidency. Because of the nature of executive agreements, and their ability to afford the President the power to conduct Diplomatic affairs without the consent of Congress, Congress passed the Case-Zablocki Act which stated that a President must provide a list of all executive agreements at the end of the year. This act is often
disregarded.

The Executive Power, stated above, granted the President the power to appoint federal judges, ambassadors, and executive officers (With consent of the Senate). One other thing that the President gained as the chief executive is executive privilege. This meant that a President had the ability to retain confidentiality between him/her and their advisers. This is based off of the secrecy required to create treaties.

President’s also played a major role in the Legislative Process with the power of the veto and pocket veto. A veto is the President’s ability to decline a bill that passed through Congress. A pocket veto is a veto that is automatically triggered if Congress passed a piece of Legislation ten days before the end of a session and the President does not act on it within those ten days. The legislative initiative, another example of the President’s “inherent powers,” is the ability to
bring an agenda before Congress.

  • Example: when the President gives his State of the Union address and he/she defines their motives for the duration of their Presidency.

Delegated Powers, The Reason for a Strong Presidency

 

Delegated Powers are given to the Executive by Congress. Ever since the New Deal under Roosevelt, more and more power has been delegated to the President. Due to the legislative nature of social programs, Congress cannot maintain the necessary departments and agencies to implement and run these programs; therefore, leaving Congress with one option: delegate the power to the executive which can create and act on agencies and departments quickly.

One issue with delegated power is the ambiguous legislation that can, and often is, passed by Congress. If a piece of legislation is ambiguous to its intent then the Executive has the ability to implement the law as they see fit.

An example of this is the 1933 National Industrial Recovery Act that gave the President power to set rules for fair competition in the economy. The Act did not define specifics and gave no process on how it should be implemented. Since the Executive has the ability to implement their delegated powers as they see fit, it granted enormous power to the President because of the inherent power of the executive order.

Growth of Key Agencies

 

The Executive Office of the President are the agencies created in the Executive Branch that run and regulate the differing programs assigned to it by Congress. Modern President’s have worked to increase the White House staff within the EOP which gave the President the power of oversight because it increased the President’s “eyes, ears, and arms.” The more people that work within the EOP, the more the President is able to accomplish.

The ability of Regulatory Review has also been expanded by the President in recent years. This has to do with the ambitiousness of delegated powers and that the President has the ability to set appropriate rules for those agencies.

The power of the Executive Order has also grown with the growth of inherent and delegated power. A President cannot use the power of Executive Order to do whatever he/she wants. The power is restrained by the Constitution; however, as the President’s inherent and delegated powers grow, so does the extent of the President’s executive order.

The last expansion of power by the President is the signing statement. This is an announcement made by the President when signing a bill into law. This gives the President the ability to interpret the law and state which areas they feel are unconstitutional, as well as how the executive agencies will handle the new piece of legislation. (Ginsberg, 527-547)

My Opinion

The Framer’s feared a strong President due to the fear of aristocracy. The entire American Revolution was built upon the tyranny of the King of England. It is interesting to see how strong the President has become over the years while Congress slowly loses power. This is in no fault to the democratic system in place. This is mainly due to the idea of the Welfare State and Congress’ inability to define how programs should be run. Obviously, Congress retains the right to set taxes and budgets which give them some weight in the delegation process, but when any person can step into the role of President and push through immense change, there is need for re balancing. If Congress continues to utilize an ambiguous tone with their legislation then the role of the Executive will continue to grow until it will become the most influential branch out of the three. This can and will be dangerous.

Sources Cited:

1: Ginsberg, Benjamin. “Chapter 13, The Presidency.” We the People: An Introduction to American Politics. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013. 515-48. Print.

2: Turner, Barry. “United States of America.” The Statesman’s Yearbook 2013: The Politics, Cultures and Economies of the World. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 1335-364. Print.

Header photo from wikimedia commons.

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