From the moment a president takes office — regardless of party — it seems that praise and blame for any occurrence during the four years he or she occupies the White House is immediately assigned to the Oval Office.
The President of the United States is indeed one of the most powerful and influential people on the planet. The decisions the president makes and the actions he or she takes have national, as well as global implications.
However, the picture of the president — painted by many media outlets as one of an all-powerful and controlling figure — is far from the truth. The office of the president makes up only one of three equal branches of American government. Our founding fathers designed our government this way to be self-balancing, to ensure that no one person had too much power.
The president leads the Executive Branch. He or she serves as both the head of state and the head of government for the U.S., as well as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Despite these impressive titles, the president has strict limits placed on his power and authority.
So what are the powers of the President?
The president’s responsibilities are outlined in Article II of the Constitution and include:
- The power to call state units of the National Guard into service (in times of emergency he/she may be given the power by Congress to manage national security or the economy.)
- The power make treaties with Senate approval. He or she can also receive ambassadors and work with leaders of other nations.
- The power to nominate the heads of governmental departments, judges to federal courts and justices to the United States Supreme Court. All nominations must then be approved by the Senate.
- The power to issue pardons for federal offenses.
- The power to convene Congress for special sessions.
- The power to veto legislation approved by Congress. However, the veto is limited. It is not a line-item veto, meaning that he or she cannot veto only specific parts of legislation, and it can be overridden by a two-thirds vote by Congress.
Many Americans would likely be shocked by how limited the president’s powers actually are. As evidenced by the list above, there is little the president can do without the approval of Congress. It is only through negotiation and collaboration between the president and Congress that our nation’s initiatives, concerns and problems can be addressed.