What are the main powers of the President?
- Enforcement of laws;
- Commander in chief;
- Appointment powers;
- Removal powers;
- Pardon power; and
- Veto powers
What are the President's appointment powers?
Can appoint high-level officers with advice and consent of the Senate
What are inferior officers and how can they be appointed?
Officers whose work is supervised by superiors that were appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate (i.e. through standard appointment process).
Congress can delegate power to appoint inferior officers to:
- The President (can appoint without approval of Senate);
- The courts; or
- Heads of executive departments
Can Congress directly appoint federal executive officers?
No, cannot appoint officers of the United States (i.e. officers with enforcement or administrative powers)
Can Congress remove an executive branch official?
Yes, but only by impeachment.
What are the President's removal powers?
Can remove high-level executive appointees without cause
⚠️ Exception: must show cause to remove:
- Officer performing a judicial or quasi-judicial role; or
- Officer appointed for a statutorily specified duration
Can Congress limit the President's removal power?
Yes, can statutorily limit removal to only upon a showing of good cause for officers appointed for a specific duration of time (e.g. Special Prosecutor)
How can federal judges be removed?
Only by impeachment. Cannot be "during good behavior" (Article III, Section 1)
What are the President's veto powers?
Power to veto any law passed by both houses within 10 days of receiving it (if no veto, bill automatically becomes law)
If the president fails to act during the veto period and Congress is not in session, the bill will be automatically vetoed.
If Congress is in session, the bill will become law.
line item veto
Vetoing specific lines or parts of a bill without vetoing the whole. Unconstitutional.
Can Congress override a Presidential veto?
Yes, with a 2/3 majority vote in House and the Senate
What are the President's pardon powers?
- Power to pardon or commute sentences for criminal, federal crimes
Cannot pardon those who have been convicted and impeached
Can Congress limit the President's pardon powers?
Qualified privilege that protects the President from having to disclose confidential communications related to his/her Presidential duties (e.g. national security, military or diplomatic secrets)
When can executive privilege be overruled?
By a showing of compelling government interest.
For example, in U.S. v. Nixon, privilege overruled because of the compelling interest in disclosure of Presidential communications for criminal trial.
What type of conduct is covered by executive immunity?
Conduct during office for official duties
⚠️ No immunity for actions before President took office or those unrelated to official duties
What is the President's treaty power?
Power to make treaties with foreign governments, must be ratified by 2/3 of the Senate
If a treaty conflicts with federal law, which will take priority?
Whichever was signed most recently
If a treaty conflicts with a state law, which one has priority?
If a treaty conflicts with the Constitution, which one prevails?
Agreement made with a foreign nation that does not require 2/3 Senate approval
If an executive agreement conflicts with a federal statute or treaty, which one has priority?
federal statute or treaty
If an executive agreement conflicts with a state law, which one has priority?
What is the President's authority as Commander in Chief?
- Can only take military action to defend a sudden, hostile attack
Cannot declare war (only Congress)
⚠️ The extent of the President's military authority is much contested and unclear. For more info, see Commander in Chief Powers
For what reasons can the President, Vice President, or other federal officers be impeached?
For treason, bribery, and other "high crimes and misdemeanors"
What is the impeachment process?
Step 1: House of Representatives votes to impeach (majority vote); then
Step 2: Senate conducts a trial and votes to convict and remove from office (2/3 vote)