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Presidential Power and Executive Order


The President of the United States possesses executive powers that are bestowed by the constitution. Article II fulfills this role by defining the powers that the Executive branch of government possesses, including its duties and the scope of its powers. The clauses of Article II give the president the freedom to issue executive orders on different matters. Presidential powers are mainly limited by the roles bestowed on the legislative and judicial branches of government. The president cannot wage war without the approval of Congress, as well as sign treaties without the endorsement of the Senate. All presidential nominations must be approved by Congress and all executive orders must have their basis in the constitution. The ambiguity of certain clauses has led to several instances of constitutional contravention by various presidents, especially in critical matters of national interest.

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The President of the United States is mandated by the constitution to issue executive orders to streamline the activities and operations of the Federal government (Fisher, 2014). Executive orders have their foundation in the constitution and other legislative powers granted to the president. For instance, Acts of Congress gives the president discretionary power that can be used any time to make certain decisions that are critical to the stability and proper running of government operations (Pious, n.d). Executive orders can be revoked at any time by the courts in case they are deemed unconstitutional. Any practice of executive orders should be founded on a certain precept of the constitution. In many cases, the president does not need the approval of Congress or the judiciary to exercise executive orders. The first three articles of the American constitution are very crucial in terms of explaining presidential powers. They outline the three arms of the government and explicate their roles, the powers they possess, as well as the limitations of their operations. In particular, Article II deals with the responsibilities of the Executive Branch of government. The president possesses powers that are limited in certain situations even though past presidents have disregarded those limits on various occasions.

Article II of the constitution

Section 1 of Article II, states that executive powers are vested in the president duly elected by the people (Fisher, 2014). The article also describes the process of electing the top two government officials. Article II states that the President of the United States is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces and has the power to issue amnesty, as well as pardon federal offenders (U.S. Constitution, n.d). The president’s power to nominate ambassadors, make treaties, appoint judges of the Supreme Court, public ministers, and other government officers are tied to the Senate (U.S. Constitution, n.d). He can only perform the aforementioned duties with the consent and approval of the Senate. The section also states that Congress can vest the power to appoint state officers in the president without the approval of the Senate (Pious, n.d). In case the Senate is in recess, the president can appoint individuals to vacant in order positions to enhance the running of government operations.

The constitution allows the president to issue executive orders, which do not need the approval of Congress to take effect (Fisher, 2014). Also, the president can reject legislation that has received the approval of Congress. However, the rejection is limited because it can be nullified by a Congressional vote that has the support of two-thirds of its members (Pious, n.d). The commander of the U.S. Armed Forces possesses the power to call National Guard units into action at any time for the good of the nation (Fine & Warber, 2012). Section 3 of Article 2 requires the president to update Congress on national matters of critical importance from time to time to ensure that the nation is led well. This includes issuing recommendations and convening both the Senate and Congress (U.S. Constitution, n.d). He can also adjourn both houses and recall them when he deems appropriate. Finally, he is mandated by Section 3 to ensure that the laws of the country are properly executed.

The constitution does not contain a specific clause or statute that stipulates the possession of executive powers by the president and the right to exercise them. However, Article II uses the term “executive power” to refer to the president as the head of the Executive Branch. Clause 5 of Section 3 mandates the president to ensure that the laws are executed faithfully (U.S. Constitution, n.d). This clause gives the head of the executive a lot of power. For instance, this is evident from a recent case of the immigration dilemma that has created controversy for the Obama administration. President Obama used the power bestowed on him by the constitution to stop the deportation of immigrants. Most of the executive orders issued have their legal basis on Article II of the constitution (Fine & Warber, 2012). If the president shies away from using executive orders to streamline the functions of the federal government, he could be removed from office for failure to comply with the duties bestowed on him by the constitution.

Another source of power that allows the president to issue executive orders is the power delegated by Congress (Warber, 2006). However, this delegation is limited. For instance, Congress cannot delegate its power to declare war and the president cannot declare war without its approval. This statute has been disregarded by many presidents. For instance, in 1999 Bill Clinton planned and ordered the bombing of Serbia despite Congressional refusal (Warber, 2006). This incident raised concerns regarding the limits of presidential power.

Limits of presidential power

The constitution bestows the president with executive powers that have certain limitations about their scope of influence. The president does not have the power to declare war because that responsibility belongs to Congress (Warber, 2006). This limitation affects his or her role as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Despite this limitation, many presidents have commissioned troops to war without the consent and approval of Congress. This contravention led to the enactment of the War Powers Act in 1973 that tried to resolve the dilemma. The president can send troops, but with a certain time frame within which, he should inform Congress about the decision (Wood, 2005). The president has the power to nominate government officials in various positions both in the executive and the judiciary. However, the appointments must be approved by the Senate that makes the final decision (Warber, 2006). The president can forgive criminals except those who have been incriminated by Congress for committing a crime (Wood, 2005). The executive powers bestowed on the president by the constitution as sometimes ambiguous and misunderstood. For instance, some presidents use their powers to avoid Congressional and Judicial oversight in making certain decisions. The United Sate’s Congress has in certain instances tried to curtail executive powers. For instance, the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency was an attempt to create an agency that would not be subject to presidential executive powers. Executive powers are in certain cases controlled. In times of emergencies, the president cannot make critical decisions without the approval of Congress (Warber, 2006). The president can convene and adjourn the Senate and Congress. However, the two houses have responsibilities that limit presidential power on numerous occasions (Wood, 2005).

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The constitution of the United States bestows executive powers on the president. All presidential powers are founded on the precepts of the constitution, which state and explicate the duties of the president. The president is the leader of the United States Armed Forces and is responsible for mediating in security matters that threaten the stability of the country. This power is responsible for the actions of many presidents who orchestrated wars against certain countries despite Congressional refusal. The most powerful clause that justifies the exercise of executive powers is the one that requires the head of the executive to oversee the implementation of laws. The president is also responsible for nominating government officials, issuing executive orders, issue pardons for federal offenses, and rejecting or approving legislation approved by Congress. Presidential powers have limits because of the duties bestowed on the Senate and Congress by the constitution. Presidential nominations are only valid if approved by Congress and treaties are acceptable if they are approved by the Senate. The president cannot pardon anyone who has been incriminated by Congress and is barred from declaring war without Congressional consent.


Fine, J A., & Warber, A. L. (2012). Circumventing Adversity: Executive Orders and Divided Government. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 42(2), 43-67.

Fisher, L. (2014). The Law of the Executive Branch: Presidential Power. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Pious, R. M. (n.d). The Powers of the Presidency. Web.

U.S. Constitution: Article II. (n.d). Web.

Warber, A. L. (2006). Executive Orders and the Modern Presidency: Legislating from the Oval Office. New York: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Wood, T. (2005). The Limits of Presidential Power. Web.

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