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Presidential Powers versus Congress

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 3056 words Published: 16th Mar 2021

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The powers of the President and the Congress of U.S. were compared in this paper. The credentials that Legislative and Executive branches of government are given by the Constitution are overlapping through all the country history. Though the periods of domination of Legislature and Executive branch differed in the past, it is not rational now to claim that one government body has more powers than the other. The Constitutional concepts of I and II Articles were described, and how they are applied to the government system today. These Articles give both the President and Congress powers to control the main aspects of ruling the country. The Presidents’ Donald Trump decision to build the wall on the border with Mexico and declare a national emergency state was analyzed. The conclusion was made that each branch has its own privileges and weaknesses; nonetheless, the system can be fully functional only if government components are working together.

Keywords: President, Congress, Constitution, Legislature, branch, powers.

In most of the countries in the world, the President is a person who governs the country and takes the role of a chief legislator together with other institutions of power. The relationship between those institutions that are responsible for Legislative and Executive power determines efficiency of the whole system. In the United States the President shares his powers with the Congress - the Legislature, one of the three highest federal government bodies in the country. Over the history there were many controversial and conflicting situations between those two branches of power. To figure out the nature of the conflict, it is necessary to analyze the Constitutional design. The main idea of the Constitution is to balance the Legislative and Executive powers and do not keep all the power in one hand, which leads to tyranny. However, to the understanding of this idea the American states freed from British control did not come immediately. Taught by the long experience of the British colonialism, independent states sought above all to avoid tyranny of an Executive power. Consequently, it made this system go through many changes to get to this point and provide opportunities for U.S. to be one of the leading countries in the world. Although overlapping credentials of the President and Congress provide control of one branch after another, they also potentially create situations that reduce the efficiency of activities of the government bodies.

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To begin with, the history of relations of executive and legislative branches of government can be compared to the pulling of the authority rope. In United states it is customary to distinguish periods of strong and weak presidencies based on the balance of power between the President and Congress. During the different time periods the authority of the President and the Congress was not divided equally. The presidency of XXI century is very different from one created in XVIII. At first, Constitutional provisions made the presidency a limited branch of power; however, the personalities of the first three — George WashingtonJohn Adams, and Thomas Jefferson — shaped it into a more influential position by the early 1800s (“The Evolution of the Presidency”, 2019). After that, the Congress took dominant position in ruling the country till 1930s. Towards the end of XX century the phenomenon of divided powers was not seen as temporary anymore, and caused the wave of interest to the Constitutional conception and time-adjusted balance of executive and legislative branches of government. Among current politicians almost always are supporters of two opposite scenarios of the development of relations between the two branches of government: a political system with a dominant Congress, and the political system with dominant executive power. Congress is generally inclined to support the legislative dominance. This is manifested in the fact that even Congressmen - members of the Presidential Party will not support the President if they consider that he exceeds his authority. On the other hand, the President dominance was popular among presidents. Woodrow Wilson said: “The President of the United States occupies today a position of leadership and of command over the government of the country so different from that which was intended by the farers of the Constitution…”. He also added that it would be a coup d’état, if it was achieved in a single presidential term, pointing out that it’s a result of natural process of evolution of the national government (Jones, 1941). His main idea was that the President gets elected popularly; consequently, only the President carries the responsibility to the nation, and only he can be trusted by the people of U.S. This idea was supported by Theodor Roosevelt who agreed that the President can “do anything that the needs of the nation demanded” (Kanopiadmin, 2010). Although each branch of the government had its own distinguished powers, there was no visible domination of the President or the Congress during the bigger part of the XX century.

Undoubtedly, the Constitution is a document that defines all the responsibilities and powers that each government branch possesses. Following the Constitution, it is determined that the President is the chief of executive power, and the Congress holds all the legislative power; nevertheless, the conflict between those two branches is ever lasting. The first two Articles of the U.S. Constitution are dedicated to identify the powers of the Congress and the President, as two components that lead the country. Article II vests the Executive power in the President, designates the President commander in chief of the armed forces, and empowers him to “make Treaties” (Vickery, 2019). From the first view, these claims make the Executive branch standing above the Legislative, since the opportunity to negotiate and enter into agreements with other countries, and control of the armed forces are definable for the country. In addition, the President is required to interpret the Constitution and to act based on that interpretation (Chambers, 2016). Despite the fact that the Constitution points out the main aspects related to the government, it has some controversial parts that became a basis for the conflict between Legislature and Executive branch. The tangle hides in the First Article of the Constitution that makes the Congress represent the Legislature. This Article provides Congress the power to regulate commerce with foreign nations, declare war, and make all laws that are necessary and proper for carrying into execution its enumerated powers (Vickery, 2019). It becomes clear that every power given to each of the branches can be argued by another one. To add more, even if one governmental body is lacking authority, it can influence another body using different strategies. To illustrate, one of the most important mechanisms through which Congress can impose political costs on the president is by shaping public opinion and eroding popular support for the president and his policies (Kriner, 2018). Changing balance of executive and legislative relations power is reflected in theoretical approaches to the ratio of powers President and Congress. Besides that, the characteristics of the warfare and foreign policy had changed over the time, which made the Constitution adopted to those changes (Kittredge, 2003).

Without a doubt, the U.S. Constitution was written in a way to prevent one part of the government from ruling the country single-handedly. However, the blending of powers in the main document greatly enhanced the possibilities of interbranch conflict, especially between Congress and the President. It became an accepted concept that the President makes certain decisions which are not getting approved by the Congress. For example, the recent decision of US President Donald Trump to build a wall on the border with Mexico is one of the main topics for discussion in the international community. Trump explained his position, so that the wall would drop the crime rate, reduce government spending on the maintenance and deportation of illegal immigrants, and reduce the death of Americans from drugs. "For many years, people have wanted a proper wall. We're building it at a breakneck speed", Trump told reporters (Timm, 2019). Even though the intentions of the current President were noble, his decision was not supported without a dissentient voice. To illustrate, the Democratic Party, that is in opposition to President Trump's Republican Party, believe that building the wall is wrong (“Why does Donald Trump”, 2019). They claimed that it is a significant blow to the country budget. The money is being collected from the taxpayers mainly, and many people are not willing to donate their money for that purpose. Furthermore, Trump declared a national emergency in February to access the military funds of 3.6 billion for building the wall. The President for the first time in two years of his presidency vetoed a resolution of the U.S. Congress on the abolition of his decree on the state of emergency. Democrats were trying to pressure Republicans to get another vote disapproving this step in October (Levine, 2019). Despite that, Senate was not able to cancel President Donald Trump's veto on Congress resolution.

From the example above, it is clear that the President and executive departments take every opportunity to expand their legislative functions, and Congress is trying to expand the opportunities through enhanced supervision and control the Executive branch. Following the advance of one side, there is a retaliatory advance of the other. Each of the parties is trying to gain at least a little of those powers that the Constitution did not give them. Although it is overlapping credentials that provide control of one branch of government after another, they also potentially create situations of the deadlock and reduce the efficiency of government bodies, for which they serve as a constant object of criticism. Nevertheless, the founding fathers laid down the general Constitutional framework for the balance, which allowed them to transform their relations throughout history without violating the effectiveness of state governance. In such a political system, governance can only be effective if the branches of government cooperate, since each of them can do little without the support of the other. To conclude, the U.S. Constitution states precisely all the powers of both the Congress and the President; nonetheless, the conflict between those two has a long history of existent, since the power shifts depending on the people occupying key positions and many other factors.

Work cited

Chambers Jr., H. L. (2016). Presidential Constitutional Interpretation, Signing Statements, Executive Power, and Zivotofsky. University of Colorado Law Review, 87(4), 1183–1229. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.db24.linccweb.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lft&AN=117347308&site=eds-live

Annotation: The article includes the analysis of the president’s responsibilities according to the Constitution and the right of the President to make his own interpretation. The author quotes some parts of the Constitution and explains how they may be interpreted by presidents. He also explains the clear and unclear parts of the Constitution and how they affect understanding of this document in general. In the article the gist of the Constitution is illuminated by concrete examples from the Constitutional text. In the research paper the authors opinion will be used to describe the U.S. President powers and responsibilities according to the Constitution and compare them to the current time conditions.

Jones, H. W. (1941). The President, Congress, and Foreign Relations. California Law Review, 29(5), 565. https://doi-org.db24.linccweb.org/10.2307/3477006

Annotation: The part of the article describes the powers of president and Congress to take a lead in foreign politics. It contains an explanation of the “making treaties part” and explains why president has more power in that aspect than the Congress has. Author drags an attention to the action types in international politics that the President can commit undependably from the Congress and explains the reasons for that. In the research paper this information will be used to summarize the position of the President as a nation representative, and describe the Congress from the different perspective, which restricts some of its powers.

Kanopiadmin. (2010, May 31). Theodore Roosevelt and the Modern Presidency: Thomas E. Woods, Jr. Retrieved November 27, 2019, from https://mises.org/library/theodore-roosevelt-and-modern-presidency.

Kriner, D. L. (2018). Congress, public opinion, and an informal constraint on the commander-in-chief. British Journal of Politics & International Relations, 20(1), 52–68. https://doi-org.db24.linccweb.org/10.1177/1369148117745860

Annotation: This article analyzes how the relationship between the Congress and president works, when it comes to decision making. It shows how public support of the president helps to reach agreements with Congress, and what affect the criticism policy of the president co-partisans have on mass media. The author also provides examples of the current and previous Presidents military actions and makes conclusion about the results.

In the research paper some information from this article will illustrate how the decisions are made on the military level, and how the conflict of powers between president and Congress help or disturb this process.

Kittredge, J. (2003). Presidents, Congress, and the Use of Force: A Critique of Presidential Powers. History Teacher, 37(1), 89–98. http://search.ebscohost.com.db24.linccweb.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=khh&AN=11679584&site=eds-live

Annotation: The journal contains an analysis of “Chief commander” power of the President. It also questions power of the Congress to restrict President from engaging U.S. troops in military conflicts. To give a better understanding, author of the journal goes back to the history of the military powers and explains how the power was shifted between president and Congress. The journal also includes some examples of the Presidents making use of their military powers and states amount of control that the Congress have over President’s decision. In the research paper the information from this journal will help to describe one of the power conflicts between Congress and president and provide some examples.

Levine, M., & Arkin, J. (2019, September 11). Republicans support Trump's wall even after he grabs military funds from their states. Retrieved November 28, 2019, from https://www.politico.com/story/2019/09/11/republicans-border-wall-military-funding-1488818.

The Evolution of the Presidency. (2019). Retrieved November 27, 2019, from https://www.ushistory.org/gov/7a.asp.

Timm, J. C. (2019, September 19). What Trump got right and wrong about his new border barrier. Retrieved November 28, 2019, from https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/what-trump-got-right-wrong-about-his-new-border-barrier-n1056156.

Vickery, P. A. (2019). Trumping Congress. Texas Law Review, 97(7), 1309–1333. http://search.ebscohost.com.db24.linccweb.org/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lft&AN=137496813&site=eds-live

Annotation: In this source the relationship between executive and legislative powers is described on Constitutional bases. Author provides examples from the first and second Articles of Constitution, which gives the Congress power to legislate and President to lead the executive branch. The information is provided claims the president’s and congress powers to make international affairs. The article also shows the weaknesses of both Executive and Legislative dominance in foreign politics. In the research paper this information is going to help to analyze the Constitutional bases for president’s and Congress powers and show the disadvantages of legislative and executive lead in foreign relationships.

Why does Donald Trump want to build a wall? - CBBC Newsround. (2019, May 23). Retrieved November 28, 2019, from https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/46811167.


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