The framers of the U.S. Constitution created a presidency that must win cooperation from Congress to get the work of government done. Lawmaking and policy-making powers are divided, and the politics of shared power has often been stormy. In general, however, Congress and presidents somehow find ways to collaborate and solve problems.
The relationship between a president and Congress is the most important one in the American political system, and while presidents spend great energy courting the media and appealing to the public, they do so in large part to gain support in Congress. A president may not like it, but sustained cooperation from majorities in Congress is a necessity.
Several factors can cause conflict in our system of separated institutions sharing power. Among them are constitutional ambiguities, different constituencies, varying terms of office, divided party control of the different branches, and fluctuating support of the president or Congress.
The media may exaggerate presidential tensions or disputes with Congress, yet clashes between the branches over presidential nominations, vetoes, budget proposals, military actions, and the exercise of executive privilege and executive orders are inevitable. These and other political realities are part of the continuing struggle that shapes presidential-congressional relations.
Presidential powers have increased over the past 60 years in good part because of grants of power by Congress to the presidency. Many of these powers have come in military and foreign policy areas and are due to the increased role of the United States in global affairs.
The framers created a presidency of limited powers, yet the role and leadership responsibilities of presidents increased as a result of national security and economic emergencies throughout the past several generations and because of the nation's world leadership responsibilities in the era. Congress usually tries to...