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Executive Branch

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The U.S. Constitution declares that the executive power shall reside in the President of the United States, and makes no mention of “executive departments”. It does go into detail about the structure or organization of the president’s branch of government. The framers of the Constitution knew what they wanted from the presidency, to include national leadership, statesmanship in foreign affairs, command in times of war, and enforcer of laws. They did not have a precise sense of how the office would work in practice, so they chose to describe the powers of the president in general terms.
In order to become President of the United States, candidates must be native born U.S. citizens. Candidates can be born abroad, but only if their parents are citizens of the U.S. Candidates must also be at least 35 years of age. John F. Kennedy was the youngest person to be elected president, at the age of 43. Finally, one must live in the United States for at least 14 years.
The process of electing a president is spelled out in the Constitution, although it has been modified over the years through the use of amendments. The national presidential election is a two-step process, consisting of a nationwide vote and the Electoral College vote. Each state, and the District of Columbia, holds a separate election to see which presidential candidate will get the electoral votes from that state. The Electoral College then votes for the President, based on the results of the state election poll. The candidate which receives the majority of the electoral votes is deemed the winner of the presidential election. In the event of a tie, the vote moves to the House of Representatives, where each state would get one vote. The president is elected to serve a term of four years, with a maximum of two terms.
Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution states that the “executive power shall be vested in a president of the United States of America.” The president has many roles, and performs many duties. As chief executive, it is the president’s responsibility to ensure that federal laws are enforced. To achieve this, the executive administers the prisons and the police forces and prosecutes criminals in the name of the state. As commander-in-chief of the nation’s armed forces, the president is responsible for national defense. While the president serves as the commander of the nation’s military forces, only Congress has the power to declare war. The president also serves as the director of foreign policy, which means that he is responsible for determining the United States relations with other nations. As head of a political party, the president sets the tone for the party’s positions on domestic and foreign issues.
The president has the ability to recommend legislation, which is then sent before the U.S. Congress. If the proposed legislation survives the Congress floor, the bill is passed on to the president for signing the bill into law. Proposed bills often see several revisions before eventually receiving the necessary votes needs before being moving on to the desk of the president. At this time, the president is not obligated to sign off on the bill; if he doesn’t approve, he has the power to veto the bill.
The Executive Office of the presidency is made up of White House offices and agencies. These offices, such as the National Security Council and the Office of Management and Budget, help to develop and implement the policies and programs of the President. The National Security Council was established by the National Security Act of 1947. In 1949, as part of the Reorganization Plan, the Council was placed in the Executive Office of the President.
The cabinet is another department of the Executive Branch that the president has control over. The purpose of the Cabinet is to advise the President on matters relating to the duties of their respective offices. As the President’s closest and most trusted advisors, members of the Cabinet attend weekly meetings with the President. The Cabinet is comprised of the fifteen executive department heads, as well as the Vice President. The president appoints cabinet members, usually people that share the same political views as they will serve as his primary advisors during his presidency. Cabinet appointments are for the duration of the administration, but the president may dismiss any member at any time without approval of the Senate.
The president is also responsible for selecting judicial nominees to fill empty seats in federal courts. Presidents will usually appoint justices that have compatible political views. All federal judge appointees are subject to approval by the Senate. Nearly 20 percent of presidential nominees have been rejected by the Senate on grounds of judicial qualification or political views. The office of the president typically selects fellow party members to serve in the lower-court judgeships.
Today, the seat of the presidency is inherently stronger due to the government’s increased policy responsibilities. The presidency is structured in a way that allows it to be able to direct and coordinate the thousands of programs and agencies that the federal government is responsible for. Following World War II, the presidency was strengthened by the expanded scope of foreign policy. Foreign policy often requires focus and fast action. The president, as sole head of the executive branch, has the ability to act quickly and speak authoritatively for the nation as it relates to foreign policy.
With the growing number of staff, presidents have used several models to organize their staff. The first model is known as the Pyramid Structure. This model involves most assistants reporting through a hierarchy to a chief of staff, who deals directly with the president. This allows for an orderly flow of information and decisions, but also risks isolating or misinforming the president. The second model is known as the Circular Structure, or the wheel and spokes model. In this model, Cabinet secretaries and assistants report directly to the president. It has the ability to provide the president with a great deal of information, but at the price of confusion and conflict amongst the cabinet members and assistants. The final method is known as the Ad Hoc Structure. This model employs task forces, committees, and informal groups of friends and advisors to deal with the president directly. While it allows for great flexibility and generates ideas and information from disparate channels, it risks cutting the president from the government officials who are ultimately responsible for translating presidential decisions into policy proposals.
The Framers of the U.S. Constitution were very cautious when granting executive powers. They were limited for a reason. They feared the possibility of an authoritarian dictatorship where the executive branch contained too many powers. As a popular leader, the president tries to motivate and inspire the American people to help accomplish the goals set in his agenda.

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