Presidential Powers


Constitution refers to a set of laws on which a state or a nation is governed. It outlines the provisions for the powers of the arms of the government as well as the responsibilities of the government to the governed population. This paper seeks to discuss the constitution of the United States of American with respect to the powers of the arms of the government. The paper will look into the historical powers of the American presidency in comparison with the provision for separation of powers among the arms of the government.

Controversy over Powers of the President

The presidential powers in the United States of American have been surrounded with a lot of arguments with respect to whether or not such powers are consistent with the initial meaning as was provided for in the first amendment. The lack of agreement as to the consistency has led to a wide perception that the powers are being exercised with respect to convenience of solving emerging problems rather that according to the constitution.

The executive branch of the government whose powers are vested in the president has in most cases been realized to overstep its mandate assuming the roles that were meant to be undertaken by the other arms, that is, the judiciary and the legislative arms. The powers of the president as was initially provided for were viewed to be limited with the only prerogative of approving legislations after such have been deliberated upon and passed by at least two thirds of representatives from each of the house of the representatives.

Powers of appointment of diplomatic representatives were also vested on the president subject to approval by the congress. The presidency was only offered full powers being the commander in chief of the armed forces together with the role of receiving diplomats from other countries. Even representations in international agreements such as treaties were subject to approval by the congress.

Such provisions are however not what Americans witness today with respect to the powers that are exercised by the president. Contrary to the provisions, the presidency has fully assumed the roles that were primarily vested in the congress or were supposed to be shared between the executive and the congress. Prerogatives such as “foreign affairs powers, war powers, fiscal powers, legislative powers and administrative powers” (Kurland, 2006, p. 4) are currently identified as active roles of the executive contrary to the constitutional provisions.

Powers Currently exercised by the President

The increased authority that has been adapted by the presidency has been due to the direct of implied provisions that have been made by both the congress and the judiciary under the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has for instance pronounced that the president, under precedence from the system in the Great Britain has the prerogative to appoint foreign diplomats. This has been contrary to the initial constitutional provisions.

Foreign relations with respect to international agreements have also realized a deviation of powers from the original provisions. Treaties were originally supposed to be negotiated by the executive but approved by the congress on the basis of the two thirds majority rule. In this set up, the congress had a basis to offer checks on the decisions of the executive. This has also been significantly altered by the Supreme Court through its decision that distinguished executive agreements from treaties.

Though failing to offer a distinction in meaning between the two, the court has provided that the president has the power to make executive agreements without the need for congress approval. The lack of difference has thus allowed the office of the president to enter into international relations without the approval of the congress on the ground that they fall under executive agreements and not treaties (Kurland, 2006, p. 6).

The office of the president has equivalently assumed powers over declaration of war by the United States of America. Timely evolution of systems since the first amendment has witnessed the adopted capacity of the president to declare war on another nation without an approval by the congress.

The congress is itself identified to have also played a role in delegating its duties to the president by assuming silence whenever such powers have been exercised and even amending the constitution to allow the president have such prerogatives. The congress for example passed a resolution in the year 1973 to allow the president to make war declarations against foreign powers and inform the congress of the decision within two days.

Powers over fiscal policies which were basically restricted to the congress have been to the contrary associated with the president following significant involvement of the executive in influencing such policies. This has again been made possible by the congress that now appears dormant as compared to the executive over fiscal policy matters. The legislative process has also been compromised and transformed from the congress dominant process to one that is highly influenced by the executive through coercion (Kurland, 2006).


Constitutional provisions of the first amendment laid out roles of different arms of government to ensure that each arm of the government was checked by others. The current excessive powers of the president however exceed the provisions causing a threat to the checks and balances which can be said to have failed.


Kurland, P. (2006). From encyclopedia of the American constitution. New York, NY: Macmillan.