This is one of my essays in the last quarter final of political science course.
Substantial powers are vested in a President of the United States. President is the head of the executive branch and should be controlled under the checks and balances principle by the legislative and judiciary branches. Under the separation of powers principle, President can wage wars after Congress declared them and choose what to report to Congress in a State of the Union. However, the presidential powers had grown beyond constitutional restraints (Demsky, 2023).
From my point of view, the two most significant presidential powers are the ability to veto laws passed by the legislative branch and the ability to issue executive orders to Federal agencies. The first power means that President alone can block the law passed by all the representatives of the people after elaborate deliberation and deal-making in the Hause and Senate. All the work done in the congressional committees with the help of experts can be scratched in one act of a President who has not necessarily won by popular vote. Vetoes can be as frivolous as stopping defense funding in 2020 by Tramp or as caring as blocking a damaging oil pipeline by Obama in 2015. The second powerful instrument is the written directives to shape policy that can have an effect of law. Executive orders are accepted as inherent to presidential power and no law had directly granted this power. Article II of the Consitution contains the vesting clause that gives power to the president over the entire bureaucracy, and Congress delegates such powers to Presidents: it can ratify the order or let it stand through inaction. Such orders can be as needed and kind as DACA, which allowed immigrant kids to avoid deportation, or as unnecessary and cruel as Executive Order 9066, when thousands of people on the West Coast were imprisoned just for having Japanese ethnicity (Krutz, p. 173).
The two most significant checks on presidential power, are funding authority by Congress and judicial review, I believe, because it involves both other branches of the government and involves financial and legal control. Congress has the duty of oversight over the executive branch managed by the President and with its power of the purse can fund or defund Presidential initiatives when the bills pass. The heads of federal agencies can be called to congressional committees for questioning, and issue subpoenas, in order to decide, whether to give money on programs. Courts can review the legality of presidential executive orders or determine the scope of delegation of power to President by Congress.
By tradition started by Theodor Roosevelt, the White House is a “wonderful platform” for Presidents to advocate for their agenda and achieve their goals easier, known as the “bully pulpit.” Presidents now often bring their message directly to the public, instead of dealing with congressmen. If the system of checks and balances is not working as expected, an “imperial presidency” could take place when the actions of a President are uncontrollable resembling those of a king. This term can describe the modern U.S. presidency because Presidents possess more power than was intended by Constitution. President Franklin Roosevelt enlarged the executive branch with the New Deal, giving the presidency more agencies to act on his policies (Corbett, 2022), but it was Nixon who went so far beyond lawful boundaries, that chose to resign before being impeached, and in recent years, Tramp was impeached twice. In my opinion, Tramp’s administration is a good illustration of the imperial model, with a striking difference in that Nixon was trying to hide his wrongdoing, and Tramp openly stated his absolutist intentions and behavior. The latter implemented a “bully pulpit” model on social media with multiple twits a day, loved executive orders, ignored congressional leaders, and blackmailed Ukrainian leadership withholding aid paid by the U.S. taxpayers for personal political gains in future campaigns. Before him, President Reagan was called “Teflon Ron” for avoiding prosecution after admitting to selling weapons illegally when multiple close to him political operatives were jailed.
Presidents work with teams, and some people can become quite influential, including their spouses without an official role in the government (Demsky, 2023). One person who exemplifies political influence over a President was the First Lady of the United States (FLOTUS) Eleanor Roosevelt was a political activist in an open marriage with Franklin Roosevelt. When her husband could not attend events due to a debilitating disease, she took on his role and was very popular (Demsky, 2023). Another person helping and influencing a President was Jim Baker, who was a true political insider and helped Reagan to pass major tax reform, using his negotiation skills to unite congressmen of both parties in this effort (Demsky, 2023).
Presidents of the United States have significant powers like veto and executive orders and have a powerful platform to advocate for their agenda, therefore they must be kept in check by other branches of the government with tools like the power of purse and judiciary review to prevent an imperial model of the presidency. It is best when Presidents are advised by competent and decent people and work with the representatives as a team.
Corbett, P. S., Precht, J., Janssen, V., Lund, J. M., Pfannestiel, T. J., Vickery, P. S., and Waskiewicz, S. (2022). U.S. History. OpenStax, Rice University.
Demsky, J. (2023). “American Institutions and History.” Political Science Course.
Krutz, G. S. (2021). American Government (3rd ed.). OpenStax, Rice University.