The American President’s Constitutional Powers

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The president of the United States of America derives its powers from numerous sources. The official is regarded as ‘the most powerful and influential man in the world’ today (Ginsberg et al. 279).

They have significant influence over the global political landscape. The incumbent is the leader of the executive arm of the American government. They assume these powers as soon as they are elected into office. The powers are outlined in the country’s constitution under Article II and the Act of Congress. The clout mentioned above can be classified into three broad categories. They include constitutional, institutional, and political powers (Ginsberg et al. 279).

However, the different powers are limited to specific situations. For example, the president does not govern the country alone. They need to collaborate with Congress to rule. It is important to note that the Congress heads the American legislature and the judiciary. The two are important policy-making bodies in the country. The numerous negotiations held between the Congress and the presidency before the latter makes critical decisions regarding the country reduce the powers of the incumbent (Video 2).

The need for cooperation affects the authority of the president. As a result, the constitutional powers are regarded as some of the weakest in the world.

Constitutional Powers of the President

The president of the United States of America is democratically elected by the citizens. For this reason, they are required to use the resources at their disposal to improve the welfare of the American populace (Video 3). However, the constitutional authority of the incumbent is weak and is often regulated by Congress. As such, their powers are said to be implied. Although the authorities are clearly defined in the constitution, the president is required to follow given procedures and frequently consult before putting them into use.

Some of the ‘most implied’ powers of the president are vested in the executive. The incumbent has control over officers in this branch of government. They have the power to hire and fire these civil servants (Video 3). However, these executive authorities are limited by Congress. For example, the president cannot fire officers serving in an independent commission or establishment.

In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made a resolution to remove from office the members of the Federal Trade Commission. However, the Congress was opposed to the decision. The move was invalidated by the Supreme Court. It was alleged that the commission was an independent regulatory agency, and the president did not have the power to dismiss its members.

It is also implied that the president is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The constitution has given them the power to protect the country from external aggression. As such, the president can formally declare war against another country (Video 3).

However, this power is only applicable in times of emergency due to the fact that only Congress has the explicit authority to declare war. The regulation by Congress is aimed at preventing such critical decisions from being entrusted to a single individual.

In the 20th century, Congress progressively reduced the president’s powers in relation to the war declaration. Through the 1973 War Power Resolution, the legislature appeared to loosen the president’s grip on the armed forces. The resolution specified the conditions under which the incumbent can unilaterally initiate military action abroad.

Another implied power of the American president is that of granting pardon and reprieve to persons who have committed offenses against the country. However, this authority is limited by the American Congress. The incumbent cannot forgive individuals facing cases of impeachment (Video 2).

The president is also charged with the responsibility of making treaties on behalf of the American people. However, they must seek the approval of the Senate through a two-thirds majority. Similarly, they have the power to appoint key government officials.

Such officials include judges of the Supreme Court, ambassadors, ministers, and consuls. However, the incumbent has to seek the consent of Congress before making such appointments. The situation is ironic, given that the president has powers to adjourn and convene both houses. In addition, they hold the authority to fill vacancies that come up when Congress is in recess.

How 20th Century Presidents use their Institutional and Political Resources to Overcome these Weaknesses.

As stated earlier in this paper, the constitutional powers of the president are very limited. For this reason, 20th-century rulers have made efforts to optimally exploit their political and institutional resources to compensate for these weaknesses (Video 4). For example, the president controls the executive. As such, they can influence officers of this branch of the government. The official can appoint and dismiss these officers. As a result, they feel obliged to support the president’s agendas.

Many presidents have been accused of appointing their allies to powerful positions in the country. For example, it is claimed that they appoint their cronies as cabinet secretaries to effectively control the various government departments.

The appointment of ambassadors allied to the president makes the official appearance as the most influential leader in the world. Close friends, especially those in the ruling party, are appointed to key positions to increase the president’s influence in the country (Video 1).

The American Congress is the most limiting factor with regard to the president’s powers. The leader is required by the constitution to consult this legislative body when making major decisions affecting the country. Such decisions include a declaration of war against a foreign power.

It is noted that senators control the politics of their individual states. As a result, the president’s influence across the country is reduced. However, the leader is a popular figure among Americans. They are democratically elected as a representative of an influential party in the country. In addition, they act as the leader of the party that sponsored them to parliament.

There are two major political parties in the country. The two are the Democrats and the Republicans. The parties sponsor senators from different states. The senators remain loyal to their respective parties. Loyalty is the reason why Congress is regarded as a “hyper-partisan” institution in America (Video 1).

They are obliged to support the president if they are elected through their party. They have to support the president’s agendas in the senate, reducing the influence of the Congress over the executive in the process. The constitution generalizes most of the elements that govern the powers of the president. Many leaders have seen this as an opportunity to overstep their boundaries without being questioned by Congress.

A number of presidents have made decisions that require the consent of Congress without consultations. Most of these decisions are often made during recess when the Senate is not actively involved in the making of laws. Such resolutions include the appointment of public officials and the declaration of war against foreign aggressors.

Such leaders as President Bush Jnr. have in the past used the excuse of seeking lasting peace to attack Iraq without the consent of the Congress (Video 4). Such wars can only be declared in times of emergency and for a period not exceeding 60 days. Such constitutional generalizations provide the president with an opportunity to exercise their powers.

A Potential Balance of Power between Future Presidents and Congress

The relationship between the Congress and the American presidency has been strained over the decades. Each party has, on different occasions, accused the other of overstepping their boundaries. The presidents who have served in the United States of America have, on numerous occasions, failed to involve Congress in the making of critical decisions affecting the nation. Congress, on the other hand, has been accused of politicizing issues of national importance. Senators elected through the opposition party are often seen to be fighting the agendas of the government (Video 1).

The wars between the presidency and Congress can be avoided by clearly defining the roles of each of these parties. The wrangles can also be averted by putting in place measures to ensure that neither of the parties oversteps their powers. In the event that this is not done, development in the country and major legislations may be delayed as the two sides attempt to exercise their control over each other.


The president of the United States of America is considered to be an influential figure in the world. Their powers can be divided into three major groups. The three are political, institutional, and constitutional categories. Constitutional powers are considered to be the weakest among the three.

The reason behind this is that the president is required to consult Congress regularly on matters affecting the country. They are also required to consult with various departmental heads. For this reason, the presidential powers are said to be implied. Failure to consult has led to conflicts between the presidency and the Congress (Video 3). The judiciary has also invalidated some of the decisions made by the president.

Works Cited

Ginsberg, Benjamin, Theodore Lowi, Margaret Weir, Caroline Tolbert and Robert Spitzer. We the People: An Introduction to American Politics. 9th ed. 2013. New York: WW Norton. Print.

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DemoEssays. "The American President's Constitutional Powers." February 9, 2022.