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The President of the United States is the head of state and head of government of the United States.  The President is the highest political official in the United States.  The President leads the executive branch of the federal government. 

Pursuant to Article II of the U.S. Constitution, the President has the duty to “faithfully execute” federal law.  Article II also makes the President commander-in-chief of the United States armed forces, allows the President to nominate executive and judicial officers with the advice and consent of the Senate, and allows the President to grant pardons and reprieves. 

The President is indirectly elected by the people through the Electoral College to a four year term.  Forty three individuals have been elected or succeeded to the office of President, serving a total of 56 four year terms.

The first power conferred upon the President by the U.S. Constitution is the legislative power of the presidential veto.  Any Bill passed by Congress should be presented to the President before it can become law.  Once the legislation has been presented, the President has three options.  The President can

  1. sign the legislation; the Bill then becomes law.
  2. veto the legislation and return it to Congress with his objections; the bill does not become law, unless each House of Congress votes to override the veto by a two-thirds vote.
  3. take no action.  The President can neither sign nor veto the legislation.  After 10 days, not counting Sundays, two possible outcomes emerge:
    • If Congress is still convened, the Bill becomes law.
    • If Congress has adjourned, thus preventing the return of the legislation, the Bill does not become law.

The role of the commander-in-chief of the United States armed forces is perhaps the most important of all presidential powers.  While the power to declare war is constitutionally vested in Congress, the President commands and directs the military and is responsible for planning military strategy.

The President also directs the foreign policy of the United States.  The President is responsible for the protection of Americans abroad and of foreign nationals in the United States.  The President decides whether to recognize new nations and new governments, and negotiates treaties with other nations, which become binding on the United States when approved by two-thirds of the Senate.  The President may also negotiate executive agreements with foreign powers that are not subject to Senate confirmation.

The President being the head of the executive branch of the government is the chief executive of the United States.  The President is responsible for the execution and enforcment of the laws created by the Congress.  Appointments to various executive branch such as Ambassadors, members of the Cabinet, and other federal officers, are made by the President with the “advice and consent” of a majority of the Senate.  Generally, the President may remove purely executive officials at his discretion.  However, Congress can curtail and constrain the President’s authority to remove commissioners of independent regulatory agencies and certain inferior executive officers by statute.

The President also has the power to nominate federal judges, including members of the United States Courts of Appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States, upon Senate confirmation.  Although the President has the power to appoint judges for the United States district courts he will often defer the power to Senate.  The President also has unlimited power to extend pardons and clemencies for federal crimes, except in cases of impeachment.

The President has the ability to withhold information from the public, Congress, and the courts in matters of national security.  While the President cannot directly introduce legislation, he can play an important role in shaping it, especially if the President’s political party has a majority in one or both houses of the Congress.  The President may convene either or both houses of the Congress.  Conversely, if both houses fail to agree on a date of adjournment, the President may appoint a date for the Congress to adjourn.

There are three principal qualifications for eligibility to the office of President.  The President must

  • be a natural born citizen of the United States;
  • be at least thirty-five years old;
  • have been a permanent resident in the United States for at least fourteen years.

A person who meets the above qualifications is still disqualified from holding the office of President under any of the following conditions:

  • No eligible person can be elected President more than twice.
  • The Senate has the option, upon conviction, of disqualifying convicted individuals from holding other federal offices, including the Presidency.
  • The Constitution prohibits an otherwise eligible person from becoming President if that person swore an oath to support the Constitution, and later rebelled against the United States.

The term of office of the President is two four year terms, but until the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1951, a President could serve an unlimited number of terms.  The office of President may become vacant under several possible circumstances: death, resignation and removal from office.  Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution allows the House of Representatives to impeach high federal officials, including the President, for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”   The Vice President becomes President upon the removal from office, death or resignation of the preceding President.  If the offices of President and Vice President both are either vacant or have a disabled holder of that office, the next officer in the Presidential line of succession, the Speaker of the House, becomes Acting President.  The line extends to the President pro tempore of the Senate after the Speaker, followed by every member of the Cabinet in a set order.

The President and the First Family live in the White House in Washington, D.C. which is  also the location of the President’s Oval Office and the offices of the his senior staff.  When the President travels by plane, his aircraft is designated Air Force One.  The President may also use Marine Corps helicopter known as Marine One while the President is on board.  The President uses an armored Presidential limousine for ground travels.

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