The presidency, to a more extent than other government agencies, has changed dramatically over the last years. Even though the presidency was not provided with a big power by the framers at the beginning, the balance between the power of the presidency and parliament continued to change for decades. Today’s presidency differs from those which was maintained in the nineteenth century. Together with the growth of influence and size of the federal government, the power of the presidency has increased. Today the President is the most dominant figure in American politics and government. Some of the most powerful presidents of the twentieth century contributed to the start of this trend. In modern politics, such presidents as Barack Obama and Donald Trump are continuing the expansion of power.
Reasons for the Power Expansion
It is difficult to assess if the expansion of presidential power is more beneficial or threatening for the US political system and the citizens. I think that the presidents are becoming powerful, but this expansion is necessary. The main and perhaps most important rationale for expanding the President’s power is that the constitutional text on this issue is notoriously ambiguous. The presidency, unlike other branches, has always been given enormous and unique power. As a result, many of the rights granted by the President, such as the country’s ability to act in emergencies and the right to keep the legal counsel of his subordinates confidential, are not stipulated in the Constitution. Also, there is no case law regarding the power of the President. Compared to many cases dealing with the power of parliament and federal justice, there are few Supreme Court cases assessing the power of the President.
The duties of Congress are so diverse that the question of whether the President is overpowered is rarely immediately apparent. This fluid definition makes it easy to extend the President’s powers in the event of a situation such as a national crisis, military action, or another urgent issue. In addition, such agility allows political expectations to influence the general perception of the President, potentially leading to an overestimation of the power of the position. The exercise of this extended power may then lead to a recognition of the President’s legitimacy in the actual use of such power. Without explicit prohibitions, expectations may quickly turn into political reality.
Administration of Trump
To provide examples of the expansion of power from the administration of Donald Trump, the case with Syria could be mentioned. Despite Trump’s promise not to interfere with foreign wars, he launched two missile attacks on Syria. Trump tried to use an executive order wherever he could not get Congress to take action. That is, in turn, could be seen as the tactics of the former President, Obama.
Many of the authorities to raise and lower tariffs have been shifted to the Executive branch by Congress over the last 50 years (Hooker 8). Because of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act, President Trump’s latest tariffs are considered legal. The administration cited 22 as a clause that allows the Secretary of Commerce to study and evaluate the impact of any import on US national security and the President to modify tariffs appropriately (Hooker 8). As Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross conducted an inquiry and produced a report that allowed President Trump to circumvent Congress’s constitutional responsibilities. Democrats in the House of Representatives have questioned President Donald Trump’s actions and privileges, and they even threatened to prosecute the President with impeachment (Hooker 23). That represents that even though presidents can expand the power of the presidency, still their scopes are limited. Given the importance of parliamentary oversight, governments need to continue to fulfill their constitutional obligations in the context of the current parliament and age.
Administration of Biden
Joe Biden has pushed the limits of presidential power in regards to the situation with the vaccination in the current rime of pandemics. President Biden’s comprehensive statement on the authority of government agencies to require 100 million American employees to be vaccinated with Covid-19 is a complex set of tests on federal authority and restrictions to implement personal health decisions based on legal tools (Dyer 374). Biden uses several presidential levers to fight the coronavirus outbreak more aggressively. He enforced an emergency provision in the Industrial Safety and Health Act of 1970 (The White House). He threatens to withhold federal funding from hospitals and other healthcare providers. In addition, he claims his power as a federal employee and head of his contractor. The case is one of the examples of how President Biden is testing the limits of presidential power.
In conclusion, the topic of the expansion of presidential power is quite controversial. The power of the President of the United States has grown over the past centuries and decades. Many of the former presidents have contributed to pushing the boundaries of the presidency. Barack Obama and Donald Trump facilitated the process as well. They have used executive power to expand their capabilities.
Dyer, Owen. “Covid-19: US imposes mandatory vaccination on two thirds of workforce.” BMJ: British Medical Journal (Online), 374 (2021).
Hooker, Jesse, “Presidential power and its expanding influence: Suggestions on how to strengthen checks and balances.” (2019). Honors Projects, 728.
The White House. “Executive Order on Protecting Worker Health and Safety.” (2021).