Envision the entire United States government system was regulated alone by the president. Every decision, court verdict and law determined by only one person. There is no area for argument or debating, conclusively leading to the abuse of authority and power. While this may seem absolutely irrational, but many understand that this is not very far away from the current truth. Due to the unequal use of checks and balances among the three branches of the government, it has caused the executive branch of the United States government obtaining too much power, therefore leaving the original purpose of the constitution to be altered and not enforced. Presidential power has grown dramatically over recent years and not much is being done in an effort to reestablish the original purpose of the Constitution. There are multiple aspects that influence this, including the executive orders of presidents, the Constitution allowing an unequal dispersion of power between the executive, legislative and judicial branch, the failure to use checks and balances, and the ineffectiveness of Congress. With the absence of congressional involvement in legislative decisions, the president has the ability to take issues and solve them alone.
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Presidents during the 21st century have used different mechanisms and tactics like memoranda, proclamations, letters to agencies and waivers in addition to executive orders, thus expanding the president’s power and authority immensely. When a president signs a memoranda, it achieves similar goals as an executive order, but are not required to include a justification of presidential authority. Obama has signed fewer executive orders than the presidents before him, but has used memoranda more times than any other president. Another tactic used are Presidential proclamations, these are official announcements of policy from the president, but a lot of proclamations that are expressed to declare and reinforce a ceremonial event, such as Hispanic Heritage Month. Obama has also used memos and letters to establish policies without approval from congress. The last tactics used by presidents today is waivers, this is the right of the president to prolong putting into effect and is usually written into a law, to give flexibility that cannot be offered by Congress. Waivers such as these have intensified presidential control of domestic policy.
The roots of presidential expansion of powers began in the 20th century. President Harry S. Truman displayed an expansion in the power and authority of president by committing U.S. forces to Korea without seeking a declaration of war. Expansion of presidential authority was really put on display when in August of 1945 Harry S. Truman’s decided to have the atomic bombs dropped on Japan, he made this decision in seconds and without input from Congress. John F. Kennedy is another prime example of showing the expanded authority during the 1900’s when the president’s position had just began expanding. During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis in October when The U.S. and the USSR participated in a standoff for 13 days because of the Soviet Union’s installation of nuclear-armed missiles 90 miles off the coast of Florida in Cuba. Appearing on television President Kennedy reminded Americans that he was ready to act with military force and that he did not need Congress’s approval to do so. Ronald Reagan was the last president of the 20th century to use his authority as president to expand the executive branch and put out more executive order than the 4 presidents before him. He created a cabinet or also known as the Veteran Affairs, expanded the military, slashed taxes, increased Americas workforce by over 1 million, but also tripled the United States debt. Reagan promised to get rid of 2 cabinets, but ending up adding one. This just shows the shear amount of authority the president has over Congress.
Even though the president position has expanded its authority and power recently, there are still constitutional and political limits on the president, even though it may not seem like it. The President’s right to veto legislation is another strong executive power, but this power can be revoked by 2/3 vote of Congress. America’s Foreign affairs is a broad power the president has, including the authority to make treaties and designate ambassadors. To neutralize this power, the Constitution obligates the Senate to ratify treaties and validate ambassadors, thus avoiding the President from infiltrating into treaties that are bad idea for the United States. Most importantly the President can not apply his foreign-affairs powers in infringement of other Constitutional rights that are put into place.
The President holds the title Commander in Chief of the armed forces, but Congress solely can declare war. Congress also has authority over the funds to the military. The Constitution cautiously balances war powers between Congress and the President. Yet, war power has strongly favored the President. American Presidents have deployed military forces well over 100 times, and Congress has declared war only five times. American war power now to a great extent resides with the President, although there is an unhindered Constitutional structure that “checks and balances” that power. Lastly, The President is empowered to assign many high officials including, most importantly, justices of the Supreme Court. He also has the power to withdraw specific officials. The powers to appoint and remove often turn into the power to control. But, as with ambassadors, the Senate’s confirmation power serves as an important check on a lot of nominees including those to the Supreme Court.
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In conclusion many presidents have expanded the authorities and power that the presidential position holds. Some presidents have used these authorities’ powers for things that are good for our country and some things that have gotten us into war and conflicts with other countries. Even though the presidential position has expanded immensely starting in the 20th century to currently, but even with all of the expansion in power that the president has received, there are still “checks and balances” to make sure that the president isn’t running the government alone like as dictatorship.
- Glazer, Sarah. “The Presidency.” CQ Researcher, November 16, 2018, 970-992.
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