Presidential Powers in the United States

Presidential Powers in the United States

The president of the United States of America is considered as one of the most powerful persons in the world. Indeed, there is a conception that the presidency yields the most powers in executive leadership within the country. However, the truth is that the office is the most circumscribed and the weakest in the country because of the restriction of powers it exhibits. Although the presidency yields numerous powers from the Constitution, Congress and politics, it faces legal restrictions as well as checks and balances. Essentially, the president is termed as having powers of getting citizens to do what the law requires of them without having to ask them to do so. While the three sources of equally strong in their manifestation, constitutional powers have the most restrictions on the presidency. These powers are explained in the second article of the Constitution and bind the execution of the assigned powers. In a bid to exercise their powers more, presidents have over time learned to yield more power from legal institutions and politics (Ginsberg et al, 2015). Most of these powers are usually based on the individual’s power to persuade rather than command.

As opposed to the powers granted to the Congress by the constitution, those granted to the president are fewer and more specific. The rationale behind this development is anchored on the fact that the presidency is headed by one individual. In essence, therefore, the framers of the constitution anticipated a scenario where the autonomy of the presidency would be abused and exercised unfairly. In curbing the constitutional powers of the president, the constitution therefore prevents the incidence of irrational execution of the presidential powers. Even the article that covers the powers of the president in the constitution is predominantly based around the terms of office, election and qualifications. The provisions discuss very little about the execution of powers by the president (Ginsberg et al, 2015). That notwithstanding, the constitution is not the only source of presidential powers. The presidents continually expand their authority through the legislative action and the concept of inherent powers.

The office of the president always seeks for cooperation while maintaining the notion that it is leading the country. This development is ironical considering that the president of the US has been labeled as the most powerful person in the globe. The limitation of the presidential powers forces the presidency to regularly engage in negotiations with politicians either personally or through his aides. In some cases, the cooperation has collapsed although in rare occurrences. In most cases, however, the three arms of the government have pledged to work together in the solution of the country’s problems (Ginsberg et al, 2015). Even when there are breakdowns in the cooperation, the presidency gains an advantage with the Congress receiving the blame for the collapse. In so doing, the presidency attains an advantage over the institution of Congress making the office a darling of the country. In the daily activities of the president, the legitimate powers of the senators and representatives need to be recognized.

The president has power to appoint and remove officials in high level government positions. However, this power is limited by the requirement that the Senate approves all the appointments thus undermining the president’s ability to exercise the power fully. Indeed, it is normal for presidential appointees to be rejected by the Senate leading the president to suggest other people. In the 19th Century, the senate shared the powers of patronage with the president in appointing friends and political supporters to government jobs. Today, most of the appointments are based on the merit system with only the most senior positions being filled by presidential directives (Ginsberg et al, 2015). This development is attributable to the legislation and enactment of the civil service laws that undermined the patronage system of appointment. Even when the president has powers to appoint and remove officials, it is not explicitly authorized in the Constitution. Moreover, the Court has limited the powers of the president over specific federal agencies even after the Supreme Court confirmed the same in 1926.

The budgeting process is a loophole in the execution of presidential powers in part due to gaps in the Constitution. The constitution does not establish a clear budgetary process in terms of the role of the presidency in the process. The presidents of the US have thus exploited this ambiguity amassing great power to bring the process under their control. The president has power over the fiscal policy through the recommendations to the Senate which has powers over taxes and spending (Ginsberg et al, 2015). In terms of importance, the power to control the budget making process is a pivotal prerogative of the presidency. Even though the Congress has much of the powers, it is the president’s role to determine how money will be spent as well as where it will be spent. Despite having these powers, presidents must rely on the Congress for budget approval thus limiting their power in such processes altogether. Over the recent past however, the presidency has continued to assume a highly important role in the determination of the spending of the federal government.

The president also has a role in the passing of legislation which forms one of the most important roles of the presidency. The president has the ability of influencing public policy through the annual State of the Union address where they guide the administration’s bureaucracy (Ginsberg et al, 2015). However, the president has no direct role in the process of legislation leaving his power to only influencing the Congress. However, the president does have a legal weapon in their relationship with the Congress through the veto power granted to the presidency. Through this power, the president can prevent pieces of legislation that they do not like from becoming law. The president is given different options when they are presented with a bill from the Congress to assent. The president can sign the bill, do nothing or veto the bill back to the Congress with recommendations on the required changes. Whenever a president vetoes a bill, it requires a two third majority of the Congress to be passed into law, something that is quite rare to achieve. Normally, therefore, the recommendations of the president are highly considered in vetoed bills giving them much power in the process of legislation. However, the president cannot veto part of the bill and assent other parts into law. The constitution provides that the president vetoes the bill in entirety or passes it into law thus limiting his influence on the same.

In the wake of the realization of evident limitations on the presidential powers, successive presidents have relied on institutional powers as well as political resources in amassing more power to themselves. One such institutional source of power is in the powers of the president to fill high level political positions in the government (Ginsberg et al, 2015). The appointments help in the president’s ability to govern the country since they only appoint friendly officials that can implement the administration’s agenda. In addition to such powers, the presidents can choose their cabinet from among members of the white house staff. In so doing, the president effectively manages the enormous executive branch of the US government. Moreover, presidents can expand their powers through the creation of new powerful offices to help in the implementation of their agendas. For instance, successive presidents have increased their White House staff thus forming a presidential bureaucracy capable of effecting the president’s wishes. Normally, the presidential institution goes beyond the staff at the White House to include permanent management agencies.

The political inclination of the president is also a source of power through which the president can expand their powers. The president may, for instance, develop and strengthen national institutions that are partisan and thus exerting their influence on the legislative process. In other cases, presidents have gone public through the use of popular appeals and creation of huge support bases to subordinate their political foes (Ginsberg et al, 2015). The use of the president’s party in the achievement of legislative success is highly important because the president may dictate the choice of legislations that their party members will present to the Congress. Other sources of political power include the use of interest groups as well as coalitions in supporting the president’s agenda. Ultimately, therefore, the presidency is a dynamic institution capable of amassing enormous power through command and persuasion.



Ginsberg, B., Lowi, T. J., Weir, M., & Tolbert, C. J. (2015). We the people: An introduction to American politics.

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