Presidential Power


president, in modern republics, the chief executive and, therefore, the highest officer in a government. Many nations of the world, including the United States, France, Germany, India, and the majority of Latin American nations, have a president as the official head of state. However, the actual power of the presidency varies considerably from country to country. In Germany the presidential power is relatively weak. True executive power rests with the chancellor, and all acts of the president must have his approval or the approval of one of his ministers. The presidential power in India is similarly subordinated to a cabinet of ministers and restricted primarily to ceremonial functions. By contrast, France (under the Fifth Republic), the United States, and some Latin American countries have given the office of the president considerable authority. In Latin America heads of state have not infrequently assumed dictatorial powers, while retaining the title president. The power of the French president is such that he may dissolve parliament at any time, although not more than once a year, and may veto parliamentary bills. He is commander in chief of the armed forces and possesses extraordinary emergency powers. In the United States, Article II of the Constitution provides for the office of the presidency, which is held for four-year terms and filled by election through the electoral college. The president is given full responsibility for the execution of the laws and is therefore the head of all executive agencies. With the consent of Congress he appoints cabinet members and any other executive officials he sees fit. As commander in chief of armed forces the president has control over the military, although Congress tried to limit his war-making power with the War Powers Act of 1973. He is also responsible for the conduct of foreign affairs, although his treaties and appointments must be approved by the Senate and his expenditures by the House of Representatives. To be eligible for the presidency one must be a native-born citizen, over 35 years old, and at least 14 years resident in the United States. The Twenty-second Amendment (1951) limits a president to two four-year terms. For a list of U.S. presidents, see Presidents of the United States, table.

See M. Cunliffe, American Presidents and the Presidency (1972); L. Fisher, President and Congress (1972); F. I. Greenstein, Leadership in the Modern Presidency (1988); L. Fisher, Presidential War Power (1995).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Cult of the Presidency: America's Dangerous Devotion to Executive Power
Gene Healy.
Cato Institute, 2009
Presidential Power: Forging the Presidency for the Twenty-First Century
Robert Y. Shapiro; Martha Joynt Kumar; Lawrence R. Jacobs.
Columbia University Press, 2000
The Power of the American Presidency: 1789-2000
Michael A. Genovese.
Oxford University Press, 2001
Presidential Accountability: New and Recurring Problems
John Orman.
Greenwood Press, 1990
The President, Office and Powers: 1787-1957, History and Analysis of Practice and Opinion
Edward S. Corwin.
New York University Press, 1957 (4th Rev. edition)
The Modern Theory of Presidential Power: Alexander Hamilton and the Corwin Thesis
Richard Loss.
Greenwood Press, 1990
Unilateral Action and Presidential Power: A Theory
Moe, Terry M.; Howell, William G.
Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 29, No. 4, December 1999
The Presidency and Public Policy: The Four Arenas of Presidential Power
Robert J. Spitzer.
University of Alabama Press, 1983
The Presidential Veto: Touchstone of the American Presidency
Robert J. Spitzer.
State University of New York Press, 1988
War Powers: The President, the Congress, and the Question of War
Donald L. Westerfield.
Praeger Publishers, 1996
The President's Power to Execute the Laws
Calabresi, Steven G.; Prakash, Saikrishna B.
The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 104, No. 3, December 1994
Presidential Non-Enforcement of Constitutionally Objectionable Statutes
Johnsen, Dawn E.
Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 63, No. 1-2, Spring 2000
The Law: The "Protective Return" Pocket Veto: Presidential Aggrandizement of Constitutional Power
Spitzer, Robert J.
Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 31, No. 4, December 2001
The Executive Power over Foreign Affairs
Prakash, Saikrishna B.; Ramsey, Michael D.
The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 111, No. 2, November 2001
The Steel Seizure Case and Inherent Presidential Power
Adler, David Gray.
Constitutional Commentary, Vol. 19, No. 1, Spring 2002
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