Presidential Powers and Constitution Peer Review Assignment

Reply to Peers

*Note: Let’s try to identify which peer’s posting you are replying to by using their first name at the beginning of your reply. Replying to one or two peers will satisfy this criteria.

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Here is what the aim should be for when replying to your peers:

1. Extending meaningful discussion by elaborating on your peers’ initial posting through adding to or expanding upon the initial thoughts or questions posted.
2. Advancing the discussion by posing new questions to your peers or class.
3. Asking for clarification (in a respectful manner) on confusions you may have about initial postings by the instructor and/or peers.

Peer Person: Emmanuel Nfawmor

Presidential Powers and the Constitution:

1. Would the United States be improved overall if the leadership role of president as head of state, chief executive officer, and commander in chief were constitutionally assigned to other governmental officials other than one president? What do you think the advantages and disadvantages to giving the president all these powers are?
Additionally, modern presidents have gained more power through different inherent powers (i.e., executive privilege, executive orders, executive signing statements and executive agreements).
To begin with, I will unapologetically say “YES,” with the assertion that “the United States would improve if leadership role of the president in all three dimensions as mentioned above, were constitutionally assigned to other governmental officials other than one president.” Some presidents may know what is right but may not do what is right. As president Lyndon Johnson once said, “A president’s hardest task is not to do what is right, but to know what is right.” Moreover, when it comes to decision making, presidents make hundreds of decisions that affect the nation, and, in making these decisions, they must try to consider what is in the best interest of the country and act accordingly.

It is true, according to the constitution of the United States, the president is head of state, chief executive officer and commander in chief, but as per the leadership role, the constitution grants the president specific executive, military, judicial and legislative powers. Thus, the president can decide and act based on such constitutional powers vested on him. However, the provision of checks and balances, as applied through separation of powers in the United State government, ensures that the president does not take powers into his hands through his decisions and actions. Reason why the powers of the president are checked by the legislative and judicial branches of the government. In my humble opinion, therefore, although the president has specific official constitutional powers, and certain unofficial or informal powers not stated in the constitution, I think “there will be more improvements (advantages) than disadvantages, if the leadership role of the president, especially as commander in chief of the arm forces were assigned to other governmental officials other than the president.” For example, the constitution grants Congress the power to declare war. However, citing their constitutional role as commander in chief, presidents throughout history have taken it upon themselves to call troops into action without getting a formal declaration of war from Congress.

Despite the efforts of Congress to clarify war-making responsibility with the passage of the War Powers Resolution in 1973, for instance, there remains tension between Congress and the president when it comes to the use of U.S troops or military powers. As commander in chief, the president has the responsibility to ensure the defense and security of the nation and its interest around the world. The constitution gives Congress the power to declare war, but from the beginning, presidents have claimed the power to take military action without a formal declaration of war from Congress. Presidents have called out the armed forces more than 200 times in American history. Following the Vietnam War, Congress decided to restrain the president’s power to commit troops. Over president Nixon’s veto, Congress passed the War Power Resolution in 1973, which calls on the president to consult with Congress before and during any possible armed conflict involving U.S military. Since the law’s enactment, presidents have contested its constitutionality. The war in Iraq (2002), was another case under president George W. Bush. As a result of such power execution by presidents towards war without consulting the Congress, it has led to loss of lives of many U.S troops and other war related losses. Furthermore, regarding legislative powers, the president is also permitted to suggest legislation at any time and his legislative power is the veto. However, Congress has power to override the veto by two-third votes of the members of each house.

The problem here is, it can be hard for Congress to obtain the votes and override the veto. On the side of judicial powers, the constitution gives the president the power to nominate federal judges and justices, in which case, the president may place men and women on the Supreme Court who have similar political beliefs. They may also alter the sentences of people convicted of crimes. Sometimes, such decisions may be objected by the masses and families of those who disagreed with the president’s decision to alter, pardon or order the release of the said convicts, especially if it has some political attachments. Moreover, nominating judges and justices, or the president’s appointment of judges, in most cases, remain on the bench for years after the president’s term is over, simply to support the president’s agenda. Thus, this allows the president to still have an influence on government long after his or her term is over. Furthermore, although the constitution gives the president power to appoint people, oftentimes, a president will use the power to nominate and appoint as a political tool, rewarding political supporters and winning new ones. This power also allows presidents to place in key positions people who support their policies, such a politically induced motive of appointment would not improve the U.S system of governance. All these, add to the disadvantages, which otherwise, would have improved things in the United States for the better, if the leadership role were assigned to other governmental officials apart from one president, especially in the situation where executive agreements have been used for more far-reaching ends. The North American Free Trade or NAFTA, is an example.

2. Do these claimed inherent exercises of presidential powers upset the system of check and balances between branches? Why or Why not?
No, on one hand, yes, on the other hand, but to a lesser extent as seen through the executive privilege attempts by the president (executive branch). As explained above, sometimes there is conflict between the president and Congress or court over presidential decisions such as, taking military action and other legislative issues. Significantly, the system of checks and balances is intended to make sure that no branch is allowed to exceed its bounds, guard against fraud, and allow for timely correction of errors. In effect, the authority to take a given action rests with one branch, while the responsibility to verify the appropriateness and legality of that action rests with another branch. While the legislative branch enacts the law, the executive implements and the judicial interprets the laws in reference to the constitution, and applies its interpretations to legal controversies involving the laws. Although they are separate branches, but all have equal powers; for example, the president of the United States in the executive branch can veto laws passed by Congress in the legislative branch as well as nominating judges through checks and balances, while Congress can override presidential vetoes with two-thirds vote from its two houses (Senate and House of Representatives) and can amend the constitution to overturn the Supreme Court’s decisions.

In like manner, the Supreme Court at the judiciary can nullify laws passed by Congress and presidential actions as unconstitutional. However, the Supreme Court’s power is balanced by the fact that its presiding judges are appointed by the president with approval of the Senate. This can be done by each branch without upsetting the system of checks and balances as intended by the U.S constitution. Nevertheless, there are some few reasons, as an examples of why the claimed inherent exercise of presidential powers can upset the system of checks and balances between the branches is when the executive branch, headed by the president, often controversially attempt to expand its authority over the legislative and judicial branches, such as the power to issue executive orders by the president, the power to declare local and national emergencies, the power to grant presidential pardons, the power to withhold information from Congress through executive privilege, to name but a few.

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