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Politics on Point: The Power of the President

What exactly does the President of the United States have the power to do? Nick goes over the basics of that role, which are spelled out in the U.S. Constitution. 

Class Discussion Questions:

1) Why did our founding fathers put limits on the President's powers?

2) Describe the power the president has over the congress.

3) Do you feel that executive orders are fair?

Read the Script:

Ahhh, to be president. You could just do whatever you want, right? Well, not really. The Founding Fathers set up our government to get away from that king leader style of government in England. But even a self-governing democracy still needs a top dog, just one with some checks and balances. To find out more, let's turn to our framework, the Constitution. 

Article II of the US Constitution creates the president's position as the head of the Executive Branch. The document gives some basic rules around it. To be pres, you have to tick off a couple important boxes: Be a natural born U.S. citizen, be 35 years old, have lived in America 14 years, and not to have been president twice already. He or she is elected by the Electoral College for a four-year term. With the ground rules set, the Constitution gets into specifics of the job. First, it gives the president the role of commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces. This means the president can call on the National Guard when there's an emergency, like in 1957, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower federalized the Arkansas National Guard to make sure that desegregation at Little Rock High School went peacefully. 

While being commander-in-chief might sound like the president can tell the troops what to do, it actually isn't so simple. Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon spent years sending troops to fight in Vietnam without getting the OK from Congress. So in 1973, Congress passed the War Powers Resolution, which requires the president to get their approval first before declaring war. The president also needs 2/3 of the Senate to approve any treaties he wants to make with another country. But he is still the main point person for foreign governments and gets to appoint ambassadors to these nations, too. 

With approval from Congress, the president gets to appoint other super important people, like Supreme Court justices. They're the most powerful judges in the country and keep their positions until they die or are unable to judge. Plus, the pres picks leaders of all the federal departments, too. So it might sound like Congress gets a lot of say in what our president does, and they do, but the president also gets a say in what Congress does. 

Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate, is primarily responsible for making laws. But none of their laws can go into effect without the approval of the president. On their own, Congress can write up bills all day; however, it isn't until the president gives his signature that the bill becomes a law. When the president is presented with a bill he doesn't like, he has the power to veto it.  Veto is the constitutional right to reject a bill. Still, if 2/3 of Congress really want the bill to pass, they can override the president's veto. 

Now the president does have some power to make rulings of his own without the thumbs up from Congress. This is through Executive Order. For example, President Donald Trump passed an Executive Order calling for the government to help get internet to all of America, especially rural areas that have difficulty getting online. Plus the president can grant pardons for federal crimes. In 1974, President Gerald Ford used this power to pardon his predecessor, President Richard Nixon, who resigned after the Watergate scandal. Ford excused Nixon of any crimes he may have committed while President saying he wanted the country to move on from the event. 

Perhaps the biggest perk of presidency, though, is the influence that the position holds. As the main guy in both Washington and the nation, the president's ideas are always taken into consideration, even if they come through a Tweet. Now that's a lot of power.

Learn a little more...with a link!

Website Article: Seven Roles for One President |  What is the job of the United States President?  Read this list.