Presidential Power in the USA

Aug 3, 2018 in Exploratory

Among the fundamental principles of the American state, investigators invariably mentioned separation of powers. The principle of separation of powers, as well as complementing its principle of “checks and balances”, were the main nerves of internal relations in the American state throughout its history. The relationship, interaction, and conflict of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government depended not only on the architectonics of the state but also the nature, content, and all of its domestic and foreign policy.

The real history of the U.S. of the Newest time relationship between major public authorities took somewhat different way than it was prescribed by the norms of the Constitution. Throughout the twentieth century, political life of the country was characterized by the rivalry for dominance in public affairs between the presidency and the representative body, the Congress. This competition was all the more significant, since not always (by election results), the president in his policy could be based on the majority of his party in both houses of the Congress. Just in1930s, in late 1940s, the first half of 1950s, and the first term of the presidency of Ronald Reagan (1980-1984) president’s party had a large majority in the House and Senate at the same time.

The reason for this competition was the increase in the value of presidential power and authority, as it is inherited from the nineteenth century. During the twentieth century, especially under various situational and military circumstances, the position of the president in the state and his powers grew, respectively, reducing the ability of the Congress to influence many important aspects of government policy. The actual status of the constitutional president was higher, so more and more often, the “imperial presidency” was mentioned (Schlesinger 9). One of the main sources of growth in the value of presidential power were his foreign policy credentials, especially significant in the war, of which the United States was constant participant during the twentieth century. In connection with participation in the war and crises, the President had secured a number of laws and special powers (1933, 1941, 1942, 1950, 1970, 1971), which then allowed almost unlimited control over the development of strategic sectors of the economy and U.S. exports (including export activities of private entities). The executive branch has been recognized privileged not to inform the Congress of the taken action, including the right to dismiss the officers in 1974, and it was recognized constitutional by the Supreme Court. Especially important executive advantage in the formation and execution of the budget was steady from 1921: the active budget initiative could only come from the president. The House of Representatives could only agree with it or concede despite the fact that the government had possibility to withhold appropriations within the general framework of the established budget (Levi 373).

Presidential power has increased its direct legislative value (generally not provided for by the Constitution). Within the 1920-1930s, the number of presidential veto on decisions and laws of the Congress significantly reduced. However, the compensation of the president’s influence on the part of law formed its own system of normative acts of the President, who could issue:

  1. executive orders on almost any issue of functioning of state apparatus and even between the state and citizens;
  2. the rules and regulations of public authorities;
  3. the proclamation (including administrative) on the direction of the administration;
  4. restructuring plans that were considered mandatory.

The first is almost on a par with the value that was gained by the laws of the Congress, and their number was quite large - up to 11 thousand existing regulations at the end of the twentieth century.

Thus, the hallmark of the evolution of the presidency in modern times was the growth of not only executive power that was assigned to him by the Constitution but also the legislative authority. Under the constitution, the legislative powers of the president diminish to the right of the legislative veto, which follows from the principle of checks and balances. The chief executive enjoyed this right in recent times more active than in the era of the traditional presidency. To overcome a presidential veto is a difficult task (requiring at least two-thirds of legislators). In the entire history of the American state, the congressmen have overcome only 2.5% of the presidential veto, which indicates the enormous potential of presidential influence on the legislative process. However, in recent times, a negative deterrent increased not so much as a positive legislative power of the president.

Securing the excessive powers of the president led to the Congress opposition, which was particularly strong in the 1960-1970s. Presidential power was partially restored in the constitutional limits. Public and political life of the U.S. in 1974-1975 was characterized by the predominance of the leading role of the Congress. According to the special resolution of the Congress (November 7, 1973), the president’s right to initiate the war was limited to the duty of the “collective judgment” that is making coordination with the Congress. To limit the uncontrolled activities of the president, the Congress introduced the practice of reservation of its right to legislative veto on the decisions of the executive power for various specific powers, especially if they were specifically delegated. In 1983, the practice was recognized by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional, but at the time, it served as an effective tool to reduce the influence of presidential power.

In the last decades of the twentieth century, the Congress increased the number of ongoing special investigations of the Administration on various sides of it, including the actions of the military, security services, and intelligence agencies. These investigations have also become a tool to ensure accountability of the executive power and the return of state dominance of the Congress. In 1977, the president’s powers were limited (earlier, since 1939, almost absolute) to reorganize the government apparatus.

It should be noted that in the U.S., which is a democratic country with classic presidentialism, this uncommon situation is called a “split the board”. In this situation, in case of a victory at the presidential election, one party wins and the majority in the Congress reveives another one. Such a situation gives added impetus to the system of “checks and balances” and supports the contention of the president and the Congress.

Given the division of powers between the president and the parliament, this may give rise to conflicts, but at the same time, inspire cooperation. The United States’ Congress and the Administration of the president use a variety of means to pressure each other. Moreover, in our view, the president has in this case more power and resources and is much more successful in this case.

According to most researchers, in modern times, a central place in the state system of the U.S. is still occupied by the executive, especially the presidential, power. The Roosevelt’s reign was the watershed in the history of presidential power. Presidential power of before-Roosvelt era referred to as traditional, and Roosevelt and post-Roosvelt eras - as the modern ones. The main difference of the second from the first one was the increase of the executive power and the transformation of the president into the dominant figure of government.

In the era of Roosevelt, the most important institutional innovation was the creation of the Executive Office of the President (EOP), which was organized in accordance with the Act on the reorganization of 1939. Over time, this institution that exists in parallel with the Cabinet of Ministers, and of which the U.S. Constitution never mentions, was constantly expanding the scope of its activities, which put it forward to one of the central positions in the executive branch. During World War II, it consisted of four agencies, and later, more than ten were added. ?he White House, Office of Management and Budget, the National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency, the Domestic Policy Council, the Council for National Resources Planning, the Council of Economic Advisors were chief among them. Evolution of EOP testified to the finding of an increase in the personal power of the president.

Howard Fineman, one of our best-known and most trusted political journalists, writes:

At the turn of the twentieth century, the presidency assumed center state again after a period of relative obscurity, this time propelled not by war at home but conquest abroad: the chance to seize assets - in the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and, by proxy, in Cuba - in the crumbling Spanish Empire. To the usual commander's bravado Teddy Roosevelt added a new domestic theme: a “progressive” agenda to tame the abuses of unbridled industrial capitalism. TR’s “new nationalism” was a brashly presidential project (Fineman 7).

“The Thirteen American Arguments” of Fineman is a thought-provoking, engaging study of the great American debate, and a highly worthwhile read.

In The Thirteen American Arguments, Howard Fineman nd offers a unique vantage point from which to see that the debates that shape American politics are timeless and profound.

Fineman discusses the relationship in power between the National and State governments. One of the examples that he used was Hurricane Katrina. The national government was in charge of preventing this disaster from ever occurring. However, after the disaster had occured, it was not the federal government’s fault for the conflict between the state and national governments. Fineman argues that the state and local governments should have a leading role in the recovery of the state because of their close relations to their people, but the National government be in charge of the operation.

Fineman is trying to say is that the national government needs more power, but the state governments should have a influenctial voice in decisions.

It should be said that the distinction between political and legal acts of the executive power is very difficult due to the lack of a precise enumeration of rights of the President in the Constitution of the U.S. Concrete action, which is repeated several times under different administrations, becomes legal. This is the way in which the executive power summed legal basis for the concept of “executive privilege”. In 1954, Eisenhower declared that “administrative efficiency requires secrecy”. On the basis of this, directive from 1955 to 1960, the executive 44 times refused to provide information to the Congress, which is, more than in the previous 150 years. “Applying for a century and a half under extraordinary circumstances sporadic practice for a short decade has become a sacred constitutional principle” (McDonald 60).

Speaking about the dominant role of the president, one should mention that the U.S. president is a global leader. He provides the leadership role of the U.S. in the international community. This leadership took shape after World War II due to the recognition of the U.S. President’s priority in the area of foreign policy. Many American politicians agreed with the statement that was expressed by Henry Kissinger:

Congress does not have the organization, information or the responsibility to solve political issues on a daily basis resulting in the implementation of our foreign policy, or for clear, consistent, universal policy. President has such responsibility, and he should be allowed to implement it on behalf of the entire nation. Indeed, in the final analysis, conducting business with other countries, the United States must speak with one voice (Schlesinger 42).

This role has especially increased in the 90s years of the twentieth century as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the reduction of the role of the UN and the Security Council in the resolution of international conflicts. The role of the president of the United States as a global leader is now so certain that basing on his assessment, which he gives concerning the international events, the perception of this event by the international community is established. The role of the U.S. president as an international leader significantly increased in the new millennium, in connection with the campaign against international terrorism.

In addition, the U.S. president is managing the country’s economy. A growing number of economic, social, and technical problems of the twentieth century required effective national leadership, which the Americans found in the person of the president. Presidency of the United States does not usurp power. In essence, this power was “presented” to the president by the Congress, which tends to delegate some of their responsibilities and powers to the executive powers in difficult times.

Therefore, the president can “legislate” on behalf of the Congress, which sets in this situatio only the basic and general guiding lines. Moreover, even the most elaborate regulatory law requires enforcement, which demands flexibility for the executive. Since 30 years of the twentieth century, the Congress is increasingly taking the laws, which are passed on the executive power, to achieve certain goals, giving the president the right to determine the rules and economic development programs.

One of the real means to enhance the political position of the president was to increase support of the mass of voters. American political scientist Edwards shows the ratio of legislators to presidential initiatives on ratings of presidential popularity using mathematical calculations (the investigated period covered the years 1953-1986). The members of the House of Representatives of the Democratic Party responded to the popularity ratings most sensitively: the increased growth of presidential popularity by 10% raised their support to the chief executive to 3-4%, regardless of party affiliation. The growth of ratings of the president from 40 to 60%, according to the calculations of other American political scientists, increased support of the chief executive by the legislative body as a whole by 1.5 times (Edwards, Kessel, and Rockman 315-317).

The invention of a variety of tools to maintain and increase the popularity of the chief executive in the mass of voters has become one of the major concerns both of the president and his political aides. To this aim, political technologies were developed.

U.S. president is the voice of the people. The American people, being not with experienced the rule of monarchs, see the president as a symbol uniting the nation. It is, like Kennedy believed, “one of the main components of power” (Schlesinger 26).

Currently, much attention is given to the president’s communication with people. The structure of the White House staff includes specialists in media and public relations. Family and school taught the Americans to respect the institute of the presidency, even if the actions of his head are sometimes wrong. The president is known by the whole population.

Thus, the “American presidents have adapted without changing the letter and spirit of the Constitution, to make between its lines their ” invisible “text” (McDonald 22). Therefore, in addition to certain basic legal rights and responsibilities, the U.S. president has acquired extra-constitutional powers in the course of historical development. They emerged as a reflection of the growing role of the state in the twentieth century in the economy, in social issues, protection of the environment, in transformation of the United States after World War II into a superpower, and with the collapse of the bipolar world - into a superpower.

Reference to the absence of the president’ constitutional right of legislative initiative does not support the thesis of his functional separation from legislative process. Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution provides for the right of the president to propose to the Congress “action as he deems necessary and useful”. U.S. State practice indicates that since the first years of the Republic till now, the administration has been actively using this ascertainment for the submission of specific bills to the Congress. On average, each year the Congress receives about 25 thousand bills and resolutions among which the president’s proposals are 95%, but they occupy most of the time of the work of legislators. In addition, without the approval of the president, no bill is passed by the Congress becomes a law. Cases of overcoming a presidential veto are rare. Thus, the activity of the president is an integral part of the legislative process. Therefore, there is hardly a reason to talk about “strict” functional separation of powers in the U.S.

The Congress can not also be characterized as a passive observer of the activities of the president to execute the laws. It can regulate some of its stages to decide on the approval of the officials by whom it is implemented, adjust the size of allocations, and qualify the majority to overcome a presidential veto.

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