Welcome to Political Science 101. Today we are learning about the presidency. So let’s get started. The Constitution sets up 3 branches of government, the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary. The Legislature is the first branch addressed in the Constitution, not the Presidency. That is because the founders never wanted the president to have that much power. He wasn’t supposed to run things, he was just supposed to make sure those who were running things were doing it right.
The following is the powers the President actually holds under the Constitution:
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have the Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
As you can see the President has no authority when it comes to making laws. Let me repeat that, the President has no authority to MAKE laws. When it comes to laws his true power lies in the veto:
Article 1: Section 7:
Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two-thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two-thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.
So the most a president can do are three things when it comes to the law. He can sign it, in which case it becomes the law. He cannot sign it, which case it also becomes law (unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law) or he can veto it. But anything he vetos the Congress can override. If you look at it, the president can say yes to a law rather easily. Saying no is much harder and even if he says no, it can be overridden.
So when a someone tells you, “As President I am going to….” and he talks to you about creating a new law, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- Does he have the authority to do what he is saying he is going to do? (If he is talking about creating a new law, he does not. So now you have to ask yourself)
- Who in the Congress is sponsoring his idea? (If no one in Congress is backing his idea, it is not going to go anywhere)
- How much is this going to cost us? (Are we going to save money as nation or we just adding to our debt)
- What is the long term plan (Getting rid of illegal immigration is great but how will you keep them out long-term and how will you fill the jobs left open, etc)
- Most importantly, is what he is proposing constitutional? If not, then unless you want to propose another Constitutional Convention, it is not going to happen.
If you are still having trouble remembering all of this, simply remember the following little ditty to help you keep track of what each branch does.
Congress-they are the lawmakers. All laws must go through them.
President-He is the top cop. He is the head of the Executive Branch and he enforces the laws created by Congress.
Judiciary-They are the punishers. So if you break a law created by Congress and you have been arrested by the Executive branch then it is up to the judiciary to find out if you are guilty and punish you accordingly.
The Constitution holds all of this together. Now we need to use this information to elect the next President, not the next Con-in-Chief.