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Are there limits to the capacities of the president of the United States?

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  1. Introduction
  2. Considerable powers limited by Congress
    1. Substantial blocking power and restraint
    2. Considerable power control
  3. Sweeping powers, weakened by various factors
    1. Limited by political factors
    2. Limited by social factors

"The best government is which governs least." This quote from the third President of the United States of America, Thomas Jefferson, raises explicitly the central issue that transcends the American political system, namely the extent of presidential powers.It is interesting to note that the Founding Fathers, who began the revolution against the tyranny of the English king, were suspicious in regard to the executive and took care not to build an all-powerful executive by a rigid separation of powers.

But if the President is seen as the second element of political life in the Constitution, he/she is the first in reality. Limits to its power thus appear to be essential. For a better understanding of the subject, it is first necessary to inventory briefly the powers enjoyed by the President of the United States. Both the head of state and head of government, the President represents the unity of the nation.

He is the head of American diplomacy (Truman stated in this connection that "it was foreign policy"), the symbol of national unity, both domestically (his role at major national tragedies is determinant) and internationally (the last visits of President George W. Bush in Europe, sparked much speculation about the state of transatlantic relations), he/she has the power to negotiate treaties (subject to ratification of senators), he is commander in chief (under Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution), has the right to pardon federal crimes, the head of the administration (he enjoys broad powers of appointment), carries the initiative of the vast majority of laws (despite the provisions of the Constitution giving Congress alone the initiative), and has a right to veto laws and the power of enforcement.

To analyze the subject, elements of the history of American political life should be considered: such as the administration of various Presidents of the United States including major business scandals and tragedies that have shocked, enhanced or limited the status of the President. The central interest of the subject emerges as ultimately presidential powers are not well defined by the Constitution. Due to increased federal intervention on the one hand, and the power of the United States on the other hand, they are now considerable.

Thus are we led to question the need for structures to limit the broad powers of the President of the United States. Are these structures effective? Is it possible to ignore the President? Although immense, the President's powers are not infinite: they are limited by significant means of action enjoyed by the Congress (I). But beyond the limit set by the U.S. Constitution, other influential factors can equally weaken its powers (II).

The continued growth of presidential power has thrown the Congress into shadow. However, the latter, with its independence, retains substantial means of action over the President. These are manifested by major powers to block and exercise control over the President.

Tags: Thomas Jefferson, Founding Fathers, American diplomacy, Congress, cohabitation, Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act, The War Power Act

[...] II) Sweeping powers, weakened by various factors The powers of the President of the United States are certainly enormous but not unlimited. If Congress can be considered the main limitation on the powers of the President, it is far from alone. The latter are also weakened by a number of political factors and also by social factors Limited by political factors If the Supreme Court is not a supervisory body as the President , nonetheless, it has some means of action against it As for federalism, it generates certain powers within the states, which sometimes differ from the policy pursued by the central government Independence of Judges of the Supreme Court -The judiciary is a truly independent power. [...]


[...] The 22nd Amendment to the Constitution limits the number of mandates to two.The election is organized as a dual degree: primary elections are conducted for all citizens and permit the designation of "electors" or presidential electors.It is the latter who then elect the President. -This popular legitimacy is important. It is acquired automatically after the elections but is not enough. Generally, the Presidents have won by great deeds performed for the country or through the conduct of major reforms. -In U.S. [...]


[...] - The Senate may also refuse to ratify a treaty, Congress rejected the Treaty of Versailles signed in 1919 by President Wilson and prevented the United States from joining the League of Nations (forerunner of the UN) . - The Senate is also involved in the appointment of a number of positions: he must approve by simple majority all appointments to important federal public office (and Supreme Court).This gives rise to bargaining, negotiations or obstructions A significant power constraint -The Congress requires the President to fulfill his functions and the separation of powers. [...]

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