AP®︎/College US Government and Politics
A high-level overview of how the presidency has been enhanced beyond its expressed constitutional powers.
How much power should the president have? On one hand, a powerful executive permits quick and decisive action, which is important for responding to current events. On the other hand, if the president gets too powerful, Congress and the people may lack the ability to hold him or her accountable.
|formal powers||Powers expressly granted to the president under Article II of the Constitution. Examples include making treaties, commanding the military, appointing Supreme Court justices, and vetoing legislation.|
|informal powers||Powers claimed by presidents as necessary in order to execute the law. Examples include issuing executive orders and negotiating executive agreements.|
|single executive||An executive branch led by a single person.|
|Twenty-second Amendment (1951)||The Twenty-second Amendment to the US Constitution applies term limits to the office of the president. Under the Twenty-second Amendment, no one may be elected president more than twice, or serve as president longer than ten years.|
|War Powers Act (1973)||Also called the War Powers Resolution, the War Powers Act limits the president’s power to deploy US armed forces. Every president since Nixon has contested the War Powers Act as an infringement of their role as Commander in Chief of the armed forces.|
Document to know
Federalist No. 70 (1788) — “The Executive Department Further Considered,” written by Alexander Hamilton. In this essay, Hamilton argues that a single executive (led by one person as president, rather than several people acting as a council) is the best form for the executive branch of the United States.
He reasons that one president can act more quickly, and with more secrecy when necessary, than a larger group of leaders. He also argues that a single executive is less dangerous to democracy than a council, because it is easier to identify and remove one corrupt person than to discover who among several leaders is a bad actor.
Beyond the Constitution — The Framers wanted a single executive to give energy and efficiency to the executive branch. But the extent of presidential power has been an ongoing negotiation—over time, presidents have claimed powers beyond the expressed constitutional powers in Article II, while Congress has made attempts to limit the president’s power through laws and Constitutional amendments.
What do you think?
What are the benefits of a single executive? What are the potential dangers?
Why do you think the president’s informal powers have grown over time?
Want to join the conversation?
- Role as commander-in-chief - What presidents have used this power to expand the presidency(7 votes)
- Presidents have used executive duty to make sure that the laws of war are followed; the President is commander in chief of the army and navy of the United States and Congress has the power to declare war.(4 votes)
- How may having a single executive lead to tyranny? How does the structure of the government help prevent tyranny?(4 votes)
- Having a single executive could lead to tyranny due to the fact that they would not have to check with other powers and could use all of the power to themselves. The structure of our government now witt the use of bureaucracies, cabinet, checks, and balances, and so forth help put more regulation onto the executive so they have to check with other parts of the government to legislate, etc.(9 votes)
- how has the president's power increased from the start of presidenticy?(4 votes)
- Generally, the president's power will increase whenever there is a national crisis, or other need for strong, immediate action from the government. Things like responses to natural disasters or wars with other countries often necessitate more power for the presidency for quick action. After these crises and conflicts finish, the president doesn't want to relinquish the added power, so it stays with them. Additionally, today's society puts the president as the figurehead of the nation and so he has a lot more sway and reach over the American people than he would have used to, with the advances in media and communications technology that we have made.(4 votes)
- how did Jefferson expand the powers of the president? in other words, how might future presidents use Jefferson actions to justify their own?(4 votes)
- Jefferson expand the powers of the president by justifing his inherent powers with the Louisiana purchase 1803(4 votes)
- How does the use of executive orders cause the power of the presidency to expand beyond the framers’ intent?(2 votes)
- role as a commander, what presidents have used this power to expand the presidency?(2 votes)