The Constitution states that: “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term.”
To many historians, the president’s primary responsibility is to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed,” as written in the Constitution. But the role of the president has expanded well beyond that limited mandate and in the process has made the President of the United States the most powerful man or woman in the world. The powers they now exercise are enormous in scope, and the actions they take and policies they form have far-reaching implications.
In a broader sense, the president is responsible for both domestic and foreign policy.
Domestic policy involves formulating plans, passing legislation and issuing executive orders to address any issue within the United States. In addition, through the Justice Department, which is under the jurisdiction of the presidency, presidents can sue states that pass laws contrary to federal law. A prime example is the Arizona case wherein the state passed an anti-immigration law that mirrors the federal law but the president deemed it to be a matter under the jurisdiction of the federal government and not the state.
Foreign policy involves formulating plans, legislation and executive orders to address issues outside of the U.S. and within the United Nations.
Increasingly, with the widespread adoption of abbreviations on both the Internet and for cellphone texting, many people refer to the president with the acronym POTUS, which you may have seen, but not understood. It stands for “president of the United States.”
In addition to being president, the person living in the White House is also the chief executive officer of the United States and the commander-in-chief of the military. As noted, the definition of what the president does within the founding document has changed dramatically since the Constitution was ratified.
According to the Constitution, in order to be president, a person must be at least 35 years old, be a natural born citizen and have been a resident of the United States for at least 14 years (these do not have to be consecutive or the years leading up to a run for the presidency).
The Constitution also provides that the president must submit a report to both houses of Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate) on the state of the union every year.
The president is paid $400,000 per year and given a $50,000 expense account. The latter can be used for any number of expenditures, but is frequently spent on special dinners or gatherings taking place at the White House. It is not, however, applied to travel. The budgets for use of presidential limousines, Air Force One (the president’s plane) and Marine One (the president’s helicopter) come out of different budgets, primarily those of the military. Whenever the president flies somewhere, it costs anywhere between $900,000 and $1 million plus because two nearly identical 747s and Marine helicopters fly. Only the ones the president is aboard are called Marine 1 and Air Force 1. The others are decoys. In addition, C-130s cargo aircraft fly the president’s limousine (sometimes two, one being a decoy) and ambulance and other vehicles to wherever the president is flying.
While the constitutional purpose of the executive branch is to enforce the laws of the land, the Justice Department takes the primary responsibility for that. It is the law- enforcement nerve center under the president and is run by the attorney general. Surprisingly, even though the attorney general serves at the pleasure of the president, the president cannot tell the attorney general what to do in terms of investigations and other aspects of the attorney general’s job, but the president can fire a rogue attorney general if it becomes necessary.
Under the control of the attorney general is a large number of U.S. attorneys who work for various groups within the Department of Justice (also abbreviated DOJ). For instance, there is a civil rights group or division, organized crime group, etc. Before 9/11, the FBI was under the direct supervision of the attorney general and was a part of the Justice Department. Since 9/11, the lines of control have blurred as intelligence agencies of all kinds now interact far more by sharing data and working together under the Department of Homeland Security.
When a new president is sworn in, he or she forms an “administration,” which involves filling all of the vacancies left in the bureaucracy when the prior president’s term ends. Overall, there are more than four million employees under the president, including the military.
The president will have between 6,000 and 7,000 jobs to fill to form his or her administration and may throughout his or her term appoint between 8,000 and 10,000 employees.
The president also chooses ambassadors to different countries. In many cases, ambassadors already assigned by a previous president usually remain ambassadors. Only if there is an opening does the president designate a new ambassador, and the nominee must be confirmed by the Senate.
However, there have been some constraints put on presidents wishing to fire certain executive officers, commissioners and department heads if they have had their terms defined by the legislative branch, especially if the agencies or bodies involved are regulatory agencies that run independently of the presidency.
The most important jobs to fill are those of his or her personal staff and the cabinet. The people accepting cabinet positions are those who run the major departments in the executive branch.
Elected with the president is his or her choice of a vice president. As voting laws are set up now, when you vote for a specific presidential candidate you are also voting for his or her choice of vice president. You cannot vote for or against a vice presidential nominee. The Founders believed that for the president to implement policy he should not have as his vice president someone who is opposed to that policy.
While the role of vice president changes from president to president, his or her primary role is to assume the presidency if anything should incapacitate the president or render him or her unable to carry out his or her sworn duties as president. The vice president becomes president until such presidential incapacity ceases. For instance, there have been times recently when, if the president needed to be anesthetized for surgery, he or she will give the power of the presidency to the vice president until such time as he or she is ready to resume his or her duties.
However, should the president be deemed incapacitated by the majority of the Cabinet, but disagree with that assessment, the vice president and the majority of the cabinet can vote the president unfit to serve under the 25th Amendment of the Constitution. If he or she is determined to be unfit, the vice president becomes president, but only until the president is able to assume his or her duties if they are able to.
Should the president pass away, the vice president becomes president the instant the president passes. Contrary to popular belief, the vice president does not need to be sworn in to be president. This is why the vice president is referred to as the man or woman who is “one heartbeat away from the presidency.”
In addition to being president and CEO of the U.S., the president is also commander-in-chief, the top man or woman in the military chain of command.
In order to perform his or her duties as president, he or she is supported by his or her staff, the Cabinet and many different types of advisers, including a military adviser and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who are generals and admirals representing the different branches of the Armed Forces who help the president to decide if either a defensive or offensive situation needs the president’s immediate attention.
Wherever the president goes, he is accompanied by a member of the military who has a briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. That briefcase is called “the football” and it contains all of the nuclear weapons codes the president may need if we are attacked by another nuclear power while he or she is away from the White House.
While they are not advisers, vitally important to the president’s safety is the Secret Service, a large group of highly trained agents whose job it is to protect the president, his family, the vice president and his family and cabinet members and other administration officials or foreign dignitaries who visit the United States.
In addition to protection, the Secret Service is also responsible for catching criminals who illegally print counterfeit money. Prior to 9/11, the Secret Service was under the aegis of the Treasury Department. After that horrific event, it was moved under the jurisdiction of Homeland Security.
The president consults most frequently with his immediate staff and Cabinet members and formulates “policy”—essentially rules by which the administration operates and carries out mandates the president defines—that influences how the country is being run, as well as how our international relations are managed. Policy is usually finite, but can be expanded or contracted as the need arises. It becomes, in a sense, the law of the land. The president can issue what are called Executive Orders which give him enormous power and presidents have been known to try and circumvent Congress with these orders.
Among other advisers, the president has a core team that takes care of everything from his schedule to who is allowed in to speak with him and for how long, to travel and any other plans necessary for the president to function. His inner circle includes: the Chief of Staff, who is also considered to have the rank of a cabinet member (see below). This position is considered by many Washington observers as being the second most powerful job in the country because it is the chief of staff who acts as a gateway to the president. The president and his chief of staff may have a number of deputy chiefs of staff, as well.
Very rarely do presidents make decisions without getting input from the people with whom he or she surrounds himself or herself or various experts who have a reputation and special knowledge about any given subject. It’s often been said that you can judge the mettle of a president by the people he or she chooses to advise him. As a maxim, it’s true. If the president chooses the best and the brightest, he or she generally does well and better navigates the many crises that reach the president’s office.
In addition to his staff, there are 15 major departments within the executive branch the managers of which comprise the president’s cabinet. Each one oversees the operation of their respective department and agencies within those departments, and they are referred to as “secretaries,” except for the attorney general, who oversees the Department of Justice.
The Constitution stipulates that for anyone to become a secretary of a department or even a special adviser to the president, the president shall nominate the people he wants to work with and the Senate must approve each before they become secretaries. The approval process is mandated by the Constitution, and is called “advice and consent.” The Senate also has the power to “ratify” (pass) all treaties negotiated by the president or any of the members of his or her cabinet.
A great deal of misleading email has been circulating throughout the web that states the the secretary of state is negotiating treaties with other countries that make gun ownership highly regulated or outlawed altogether. Usually in the form of email, it is often a scare tactic contending that the treaties negotiated do not have to be ratified by the Senate. While most treaties must be ratified by the United States Senate, there are two ways a president can get around that stipulation. One is the Presidential Agreement and the Presidential Congressional Agreement, neither of which have been used with any degree of frequency.
To view the current cabinet departments and websites presented in alphabetical order, see Appendix A:
While the cabinet includes all department heads, it has a secondary purpose that involves succession to the presidency. If some catastrophe were to result in the passing away of the president and vice president, the speaker of the House of Representatives and then the president pro tem of the U.S. Senate would be next in line.
If they should not be available or if they are unwilling to become president, the line of succession is as follows:
Secretary of State
Secretary of the Treasury
Secretary of Defense
Attorney General at Justice
Secretary of the Interior
Secretary of Agriculture
Secretary of Commerce
Secretary of Labor
Secretary of Health and Human Services
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
Secretary of Transportation
Secretary of Energy
Secretary of Education
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Secretary of Homeland Security
To provide the President with even more support, he or she needs to govern effectively. The Executive Office of the President (EOP) was created in 1939 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The EOP has responsibility for a huge number of committees and/or groups listed below in Appendix B.
The chief of staff is responsible for the EOP, and many have been among the president’s most valued advisers.
Additionally, while all major advisers are to be approved by the Senate, recent presidents have brought some people into their administrations through “the back door” to act as advisers, but somehow have managed to escape the Senate’s scrutiny. These are called “czars” and the current president has 32. See the links below to learn who these people are, what services they provide and what their ideological and political beliefs are.
This group is only marginally legal if at all. The Senate should be scrutinizing every one, but it does not exercise it’s advice-and-consent mandate in these cases. The reason may be partisan in nature. With the current president being a Democrat and with the Senate controlled by Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may simply not wish to assert the Senate’s constitutional duty and thus allows the current president to have these advisers even though they have not been properly approved.
Nobody Else Could Solve the Problems
The problems with which the president grapples daily reach his desk for one reason only. During his transition period, President-Elect John F. Kennedy met with President Eisenhower. “Ike,” as Eisenhower was known, told Kennedy that the only problems that would reach his desk are those that nobody in the massive bureaucracy beneath him could solve. It’s then up to the president to coalesce the resources from the vast array of advisers he has to help him formulate policy that will help solve the problem.
It is ultimately up to the president to come up with policies that can be handled in several different ways. If the problem is domestic, he can convene the cabinet and other selected advisers and get them to come up with ways to meet the challenge at hand. If it’s a foreign issue, he can mandate that the secretary of state find some way to negotiate a solution through diplomacy.
But there are checks and balances in place to prevent a president from going too far. For instance, before the president can send our troops into harm’s way, he or she will usually seek a diplomatic solution before authorizing military action. If he or she does order the military into a hot spot, he or she must get permission from Congress.
The Constitution is very clear that the House of Representatives is the only body politic permitted to authorize military intervention and issue a declaration of war. The only exception to this rule is if the president must act immediately and defensively to ward off any direct threat to the United States. In that case, he or she is subject to the provisions of the War Powers Resolution, which mandates the President must notify Congress within 48 hours of committing troops to military action. From that point on, the troops are prohibited from remaining in battle for more than 60 days with an additional 30-day withdrawal period without congressional authorization.
If the president fails to abide by the provisions of the War Power Act, Congress can cut off any further funding of the military action.
The President and Congress
Throughout our history, the relationship between the president and Congress has been at times cooperative and more often not. If representatives, senators and the president are all members of the same party, things often get passed more easily. If they’re not, getting bills through the process can get much more difficult. What the president is able to get accomplished often has to do with his attitude toward the other party. If they don’t get along, stalemate is often the result.
When the president proposes a bill, he submits it to a member of Congress who sponsors it. Only a member of Congress can submit a bill for consideration. There the speaker of the House and the Senate majority leader put it in what’s called “the hopper” and it is then assigned to the appropriate committees and sub-committees that address the subject matter of the bill. The committees hold hearings to determine what if any problems may arise from passage of the bill. The committee then votes, and if there’s a majority in favor of the bill, it goes to the full House and Senate to be voted on by all members. If it passes, it goes to a “conference committee” comprising members from both the House and Senate who iron out any differences in the bill from either chamber to get the final bill. It is then voted on again by both houses of Congress, and if it passes, it goes to the president for his signature, which makes the bill law. (This is all explained in the Legislative Branch section)
If Congress should put a bill sponsored by a member of Congress and “co-sponsors,” it goes through the same process. If it passes and the president doesn’t like it, he or she can veto the bill. However, if they do nothing within ten days and Congress is still in session, the bill passes. But, if Congress is not in session for ten days after the bill is passed, it does NOT become law if the president has not signed it. This is called a “pocket veto,’ and has been used by numerous presidents.
A veto means the bill does not become law and it is sent back to Congress with the president’s objections to it noted. Congress then either tries to make whatever changes the president wants or the bill simply gets put on a shelf.
As mentioned above, presidents can make policy is by issuing executive orders. Unlike legislation, these documents are stored in the Federal Register, a book of orders mandated by the president.
Many presidents have tried to circumvent contentious issues with Congress using executive orders. But they are by no means a be all end all. Congress can mitigate the effectiveness of an executive order by passing legislation that stops it.
Overturning Laws, Executive Orders and Unwillingness to Comply with Congressional Subpoenas
In some instances, bills passed and signed into law, executive orders and the refusal to submit documents to Congress when requested can be overturned by the federal courts, in particular, the Supreme Court.
A law was passed during the Clinton administration that allowed the president to “line item veto” (go line by line through a bill and veto the sentences or words he or she does not like) various components of a bill without vetoing the entire measure.
Members of Congress who know that the president really wants a particular bill to pass will add amendments to the bill that bear no relationship to the main focus of the measure. Often times, these are amendments the president doesn’t want. With the line item veto, he or she could remove them. But members of Congress sued and the Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional and it could no longer be used.
In other instances, executive orders have been successfully challenged in court. But the most contentious battles between the president and Congress involve investigations into the president’s administration that require that Congress read the paperwork behind a policy or suspicious behavior. The president is protected by what’s know as “executive privilege.” It’s a concept that holds that the president does not have to submit certain documents because they could compromise some policy currently in effect.
When this issue arises, the Supreme Court determines whether or not the president must turn over the requested information. The most famous case involving executive privilege occurred when President Nixon refused to turn over documents and tape recordings involving the Watergate affair. In that case, the Supreme Court ordered that Nixon submit the materials requested and that decision more or less compelled him to resign after the House began to vote for articles of impeachment.
Article I, Section 4 of the Constitution stipulates how a president or vice president can be removed from office.
The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
A sitting president cannot be indicted for a crime or arrested. If a crime has been committed, he or she must first be impeached and convicted in the Senate, and thus stripped of the protection of his or her office, before they can be arrested. The process is very straight forward. Any member of Congress who believes the president has committed “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors” can sponsor a bill to impeach the president. That bill is assigned to a special sub-committee formed in the House of Representatives. They hear testimony and question witnesses, then debate whether or not the counts listed in a bill for impeachment are valid. If they are, they vote on each accusation and if each passes, it becomes an “indictment.”
The measure is then sent to the entire House and if the “articles of impeachment” pass, the president is impeached. Impeachment does NOT mean that the president is thrown out of office. It means that he or she must stand trial before the Senate with the chief justice of the Supreme Court presiding. After the case has been heard, the Senate votes either for or against conviction. If the president is convicted, he or she is stripped of the powers of the presidency immediately and the vice president becomes president.
Only two presidents have been impeached, Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson, who was Lincoln’s vice president. One vote saved Johnson from expulsion, and even though the Republicans in the Senate had the majority, they did not vote to convict President Clinton.
The Cabinet Departments and Cabinet Level Positions
Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Department of Commerce (DOC)
Department of Defense (DOD)
Department of Education (ED)
Department of Energy (DOE)
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Management & Budget
United States Trade Representative
United States Ambassador to the United Nations
Council of Economic Advisers
More will be added to this section over time. In the mean time, if you have any questions about the presidency, please send them to email@example.com If they are good, we will post and answer them on this or another page on conservatovenexus.com.
The following entities exist within the Executive Office of the President:
Council on Environmental Quality
National Security Council and Homeland Security Council
Office of Administration
Office of Management and Budget
Office of National Drug Control Policy
Office of Science and Technology Policy
Office of the United States Trade Representative
Office of the Vice President
The White House
Office of Cabinet Affairs
Office of the Chief of Staff
Office of Communications
Office of the First Lady
Office of the Social Secretary
National Security Advisor
Office of Legislative Affairs
Office of Management and Administration
White House Personnel
White House Operations
Oval Office Operations
Office of Political Affairs
Office of Presidential Personnel
Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs
Office of Public Engagement
Council on Women and Girls
Office of Intergovernmental Affairs
Office of the Press Secretary
Office of Scheduling and Advance
Office of the Staff Secretary
Office of the White House Counsel
Office of White House Policy
Domestic Policy Council
Office of National AIDS Policy
Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships
Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation
National Economic Council
White House Military Office