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Study Notes

Presidential Power

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

The President has a number of powers to suit the number of roles that the President must fulfil. Typically the President has five main roles which they must carry out in the Federal Government

  • Head of State (Presidents are the figurehead of the nation)
  • Chief Diplomat (Presidents are the top level for diplomacy between countries)
  • Chief Legislator (Presidents will seek to implement their agenda seeking endorsement via election)
  • Commander in Chief (Presidents are the leader of all armed forces)
  • Chief Executive (Presidents must lead the Federal Bureaucracy)

As a result of the number of roles the President has, there is equally a lot of power vested in one person. However, the powers of the President are not static, and change depending on circumstances. This is known as the Ebb and Flow of power between the President and Congress. Typically in a crisis, power will flow towards the President, but in peace time, Congress will reassert itself over the executive branch.

There are a number of notable powers that you should know and they are outlined below:

  • Propose Legislation
    • Obama with the Affordable Care Act, Bush with No Child Left Behind. Remember that they cannot introduce legislation into Congress
  • Submit the Annual Budget
  • Sign Legislation into law
  • Veto Legislation
    • Obama on Defence spending
  • Act as Chief Executive to the Federal Bureaucracy
  • Nomination Chief
    • Presidents must nominate people to fulfil a huge array of roles within the Federal Government
  • Commander in Chief
    • The President is head of all the armed forces
  • Negotiate Treaties
    • The President will lead negotiations on treaties before presenting them to the Senate.
  • Power of Pardon
    • The President can pardon people convicted or accused of crimes such as Gerald Ford, who pardoned Richard Nixon.

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