This article has been written by Ayush Tiwari, a student of Symbiosis Law School, NOIDA. This article elaborates on the Executive Branch of the United States Government by making one understand the role and powers of the President.

It has been published by Rachit Garg.


The executive branch of the US government is one of the most powerful entities in the world. It is responsible for carrying out the laws of the United States and exercising the executive powers vested in the president. The executive branch of the United States has evolved throughout its history, and its powers and duties have significantly increased since the country’s establishment. These days, the executive branch is in charge of several critical domestic and global policy problems, such as global defense, trade, and economic growth. The President of the United States is the head of the executive branch and the nation’s top executive, as well as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The executive branch is made up of several agencies and departments, with each one in charge of a certain set of duties. The major agencies of the executive branch include the Department of Defense, the Department of State, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice. The checks and balances system is a major aspect of the American executive branch. This framework is intended to prevent any one branch of government from being overly powerful, and to guarantee that all three branches function together to serve the greatest interests of the American people.  In this article, we will discuss the history and role of the president, the powers and duties of the president, impeachment, legislative versus executive powers, presidential succession, and presidential appointments.

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Who is the Executive in the US

The US executive branch comprises of the President of the United States, the Vice President, and a number of government agencies, departments, offices, and organizations that work to carry out and enforce the laws that govern the country. The executive branch is in charge of overseeing the federal government’s day-to-day operations and is entrusted with enacting and executing the laws established by the legislative branch.

The president is the head of the executive branch and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president also has a wide range of powers, including the power to make treaties, appoint ambassadors, grant pardons, and veto bills. The executive branch is responsible for enforcing the laws of the United States and carrying out the policies of the president. The executive branch is also responsible for making sure that the government runs efficiently and effectively. The executive branch has the power to issue executive orders, which are binding on all government agencies, making them legally enforceable. 

The Vice President of the United States is second in command and responsible for assisting the President in his or her duties as well as acting as President of the Senate. The cabinet is made up of the heads of the various executive departments, such as the secretaries of state, defense, and treasury.

The executive branch also includes a slew of government agencies and departments, each of which is in charge of carrying out certain responsibilities and providing services on behalf of the American people.

These executive departments include the Departments of Defense, Justice, Homeland Security, State, and Treasury. Each of these departments is led by a secretary, whom the President appoints and are confirmed by the Senate.

In addition to the executive departments, there are multiple executive agencies and offices that play critical roles in the federal government’s daily operations, such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

History and Role of the President

The role of the president has evolved dramatically since the founding of the United States. The president was originally seen as a symbol of the nation, with very little actual power. This changed with the passage of the Constitution in 1787, which granted the president the power to appoint cabinet members, ambassadors, and other government officials, as well as the power to veto laws passed by Congress. The President of the United States is the leader of the executive arm of government and the country’s highest-ranking official. The post of president is created by the United States Constitution, which describes the president’s duties and responsibilities, as well as the criteria for holding the office.

The history of the president in the United States stretches as far back as the late 18th century, when the country was formed as an independent nation. George Washington became the first president in 1789 and served two terms before stepping down. Since then, the country has had 46 presidents, each with a distinct role in molding the country as well as its policies. The role of the president as commander-in-chief of the armed forces is one of the most important. This means that the president has the ability to direct military operations and make strategic national defense choices. Presidents have used this power in a number of ways throughout American history, from declaring war to approving military actions in foreign nations.

Another key role that the president plays is to serve as the United States’ chief diplomat. This entails representing the country on the international stage and engaging with other foreign leaders to further US interests. Presidents have used this authority to mediate peace treaties, encourage economic and trade ties, and address global issues like climate change and terrorism. In addition to these duties, the president has a variety of domestic authorities, such as the ability to introduce and approve legislation, appoint federal judges and other officials, and issue executive orders with legal effect. These authorities have been utilized to address a wide range of topics, from civil rights to healthcare reform, and have frequently sparked controversy and discussion. The presidency has changed dramatically throughout American history, with individual presidents taking on varied tasks and responsibilities based on the political and social circumstances of their time in office. Some presidents, such as Abraham Lincoln and Franklin D. Roosevelt, are renowned for their courageous leadership during times of crisis, but others, such as Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, are regarded for their ability to work with Congress and achieve consensus and unity on critical subjects.

Powers and Duties of the President

The powers and duties of the president are outlined in the Constitution. The president is the head of state, head of government, and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president is also responsible for appointing cabinet members, ambassadors, Supreme Court justices, and other government officials. It encompasses the powers officially provided to the president of the United States by Article II of the United States Constitution, powers granted by Acts of Congress, implied powers, and a vast deal of “soft power” linked to the office of the president.

The president is specifically given the authority to sign or veto legislation, command the armed forces, request the written response of their Cabinet, convene or adjourn Congress, award reprieves and pardons, and receive ambassadors, according to the Constitution. The president directs and dismisses executive officials to ensure that federal laws are followed. The president may make treaties, which must be confirmed by two-thirds of the Senate, and is given foreign-affairs duties that Congress does not normally have or share with the Senate.

As a result, the president has influence over the formulation and transmission of foreign policy, as well as the direction of the nation’s diplomatic corps. With the advice and approval of the United States Senate, the president could also appoint judges under Article III of the US Constitution and other offices. The president can issue a temporary appointment during a Senate recess.


The president is expressly designated in Article II of the Constitution as “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, as well as the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual service of the United States”- since 1947, this has been understood to mean all United States Armed Forces. As commander-in-chief, the president has supreme operational command over the military, including the authority to launch, direct, and supervise military operations, order or authorize troop deployment (in foreign countries), and formulate military policy in collaboration with the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. But, only Congress has the constitutional authority to declare war.

Executive powers

Within the executive branch, the president has considerable authority to handle national affairs and government agendas. Executive orders are rules, regulations, and directions issued by the president that have the force of law but do not need the approval of the United States Congress. Judicial review and interpretation are available for executive orders.

The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 gave the presidency greater duties for preparing the United States federal budget, though Congress had to approve it. The statute mandated that the Office of Management and Budget assist the president in budget formulation.

The act mandated that the Office of Management and Budget assist the president in budget formulation. Past presidents had the authority to impound cash as they deemed appropriate, but the United States Supreme Court abolished that authority in 1998, citing a violation of the Presentment Clause. The authority was given to all presidents and was considered an inherent power of the office. The Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974 was enacted in reaction to President Nixon’s large-scale power exercises. As a legislative counterpart to the Office of Management and Budget, the legislation also established the Congressional Budget Office. 

Legislation-related powers

When presented with a bill from Congress, the president has various alternatives. If the president approves of the measure, he has 10 days to sign it into law after receiving it. If the president objects to the measure, he can reject it and return it to Congress with a veto message recommending revisions, unless Congress is not in session, in which case the president may use a pocket veto. Presidents are obligated to approve all or none of a measure; selective vetoes are not allowed. In 1996, Congress granted President Bill Clinton a line-item veto over portions of a measure requiring the use of federal funds.

In Clinton v. New York City (1997), the Supreme Court ruled that Clinton’s veto of pork barrel expenditures for New York City was unconstitutional since only a constitutional amendment can grant the president line-item veto authority. When a bill is presented for approval, the president may also issue a statement with that approval in which they express their views on the constitutionality of the terms of the bill. The president also might declare them unenforceable, although the Supreme Court has yet to rule on the matter. By a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate, Congress can overturn vetoes. Historically, the procedure has been difficult and uncommon. The fear of a presidential veto has usually put enough pressure on Congress to amend a law so that the president will sign it. A large portion of the legislation that Congress deals with is prepared on the executive branch’s initiative. In yearly and special communications to Congress, including the annual State of the Union address and joint sessions of Congress, the president may directly propose legislation. If Congress adjourns without acting on proposals, the president has the authority to summon a special session of Congress.

Traditional Powers of the President

The traditional powers of the president include the powers to make treaties, declare war, appoint cabinet members and ambassadors, and grant pardons and reprieves. The president also has the power to veto laws passed by Congress and to issue executive orders. The president also has the power to make recess appointments, which allow the president to fill vacant positions in the executive branch without the approval of the Senate.

Powers of appointment

The president-elect and his transition team must fill over 6,000 federal positions before taking office. The appointments span from top executives in US federal agencies to members of the White House staff and the US diplomatic corps. Many, but not all, of these high-level posts are filled by the president with the advice and approval of the United States Senate. The president also appoints people to fill federal judicial vacancies, including federal judges on the United States Courts of Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. These nominees require Senate approval, which may be a major roadblock for presidents seeking to influence the federal court in a certain ideological direction. As head of the executive branch, the president picks the senior executives for almost all federal agencies. These positions are detailed in the Plum Book, which lists nearly 6,000 appointive roles in the government. The president makes many of these appointments. The president has the authority to designate a new agency head for 10 agencies.

It is not uncommon for the president to replace the Director of the CIA or the Administrator of NASA after his appointment. Some federal regulatory organizations, such as the Federal Reserve Board and the Securities and Exchange Commission, have tenures that frequently outlast presidential terms. Governors of the Federal Reserve, for example, serve for fourteen years to preserve agency independence. The president also selects board members for government-owned enterprises such as Amtrak. If a job has to be filled when Congress is not in session, the president can make a recess appointment at his discretion.

Foreign policy

Under the Constitution, the president is the federal authority who is principally responsible for the United States’ ties with foreign nations. The president selects ambassadors, ministries, and consuls and receives foreign ambassadors and other public officials (subject to Senate approval). The president coordinates all formal relations with foreign governments with the help of the secretary of state.

Emergency powers

In times of national emergency, the president is not specifically granted extra powers under the Constitution. Several historians believe that the Framers indicated these powers because the Executive Branch’s structural framework allows it to act faster than the Legislative Branch. Because the Constitution is silent on the subject, the courts are unable to award the Executive Branch these powers when it seeks to exercise them. The courts will only acknowledge the Executive Branch’s right to employ emergency powers if Congress has granted the president such authority.

During World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt also used emergency powers when he issued an order authorizing the incarceration of all Japanese Americans living on the West Coast.

President Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of habeas corpus without Congressional approval in 1861 was based on a claim of emergency powers. Lincoln maintained that the revolt constituted an emergency that gave him the unusual ability to suspend the writ unilaterally. The Federal District Court of Maryland, presided over by Chief Justice Roger Taney, overturned the suspension in Ex parte Merryman, but Lincoln ignored the order.

In 1952, Harry Truman declared an emergency and nationalized private steel plants that were unable to manufacture steel due to a worker strike. With the Korean War still running, Truman said that he would be unable to conduct war successfully if the economy failed to give him the material resources required to keep the troops well-equipped. Nevertheless, in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer (1952), the United States Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that neither commander-in-chief powers nor any alleged emergency powers provided the president the right to remove private property unilaterally without Congressional authorization.

Impeachment of the President

Impeachment in the United States refers to the procedure through which a public official can be investigated for removal from office, which may also result in his or her restriction from holding future public office. According to the US Constitution, “the President, the Vice President, and other civil officials” of the federal government may be impeached and removed if they are accused of “treason, bribery, or other grave crimes and misdemeanors.” The phrase “high crimes and misdemeanors” was included by the founders to refer to acts or behaviors done by a public official that cause harm to the state, regardless of whether law enforcement has recognized the behavior as unlawful or pursued charges. 

Congress alone has the authority to impeach federal officials. The US House of Representatives (the House) is in charge of looking into and submitting impeachment allegations, while the Senate is the court that hears impeachment cases. The Senate has three options: acquittal, removal from office, or removal including prohibition from holding future office. As impeachment is a political rather than a criminal procedure, any allegations made by law enforcement are dealt with by the courts. As a result, impeachment can be used to probe a person’s fitness to keep office as well as charges of unlawful and unethical activity. Apart from the federal government, every state except Oregon, which relies on recall elections to remove elected leaders, allows for state officials to be impeached.

While a presidential impeachment hasn’t ever ultimately resulted in a conviction and the president being removed from office, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against President Richard Nixon in July 1974 after a criminal investigation linked a 1972 break-in at the Democratic National Committee to Nixon reelection campaign operatives. The articles that were passed accused Nixon with abuse of power, contempt of Congress, and obstructing justice, and the House was very certain to send the accusations to the Senate for trial, where a conviction was almost certain. Meanwhile,  Nixon opted to resign from office before the House vote. So, it can be said that impeaching a president has generally been seen as a last resort by lawmakers and political scientists, who note that the process can harm the country’s prestige, create political instability, and harm the economy.

Process of impeachment

  • Everything begins with a Congressional committee investigation. Each member of the House of Representatives has the ability to introduce an impeachment resolution. The House Judicial Committee investigates the resolution, frames the charges, and votes on it with a simple majority.
  • If one or more of the articles of impeachment receive a majority vote in the House, the president is impeached. The Senate will then hear the proceedings.
  • The articles are sent to the Senate for consideration, and the Senate Trials are presided over by the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. The prosecution is handled by a team of House lawmakers known as managers. The President is represented by defense lawyers, while the Senate functions as a jury. If at least two-thirds of the Senators present declare the President guilty, he is removed from office and the Vice President assumes the office of the President.

Legislative v. Executive Powers

The executive and legislative branches of government have different powers. The checks and balances system is related to the separation of powers in the United States. The system of checks and balances, where both branches of the government are given distinct rights to check the other branches, prevents any one branch from becoming too strong.

Congress has the authority to enact laws, and the President has the authority to veto them. Congress is divided into two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives, and a 2/3 vote in both houses is required to overturn a presidential veto.

The Checks and Balances System also gives the two branches the authority to nominate and dismiss members from other branches. Congress has the authority to impeach and convict the president for high crimes such as treason or bribery. The House of Representatives can pursue impeachment accusations against the president, while the Senate can convict and remove the president from office. Moreover, Supreme Court nominees are appointed by the President and ratified by the Senate.  The executive branch is responsible for the day-to-day enforcement and implementation of federal legislation through federal agencies. These federal agencies and departments have purposes and duties that range from protection of the environment to border protection. Whereas the legislative branch has the authority to approve presidential appointments and manage the budget.

The relationship between the executive and legislative branches is often tense, as each branch seeks to protect its own powers. In the US, the president is often seen as the leader of the country, while Congress is seen as the body that makes the laws. This tension is often referred to as the “separation of powers.”

Presidential Succession

The Constitution provides for the succession of the president in the event of the death, resignation, or removal of the president. The order of succession is set by Congress and is in the following order:

  • Vice President
  • Speaker of the House
  • President Pro Tempore of the Senate (typically, the Senator with the longest tenure in the Senate)
  • Secretary of State
  • Secretary of the Treasury
  • Secretary of Defense
  • Attorney General
  • Secretary of the Interior
  • Secretary of Agriculture
  • Secretary of Commerce
  • Secretary of Labor
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  • Secretary of Transportation
  • Secretary of Energy
  • Secretary of Education
  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs
  • Secretary of Homeland Security

It has been used nine times in American history. Eight of those occasions involved the death of a sitting president, and one (Richard Nixon) involved a resignation. In chronological order, the eight presidents who died in office are: William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley, Warren G. Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy.


The executive branch of the United States government is considered to be the most powerful organization in the world. The executive branch of the United States government is a critical component of the nation’s political structure, responsible for enacting policies, enforcing the law, and representing the country on the global stage. The President is the head of this branch, exerting significant authority and influence over the country’s direction. He is entrusted with carrying out the laws of the United States and exercising the powers vested in him. The President has a broad set of powers and responsibilities, including the ability to appoint officials and negotiate treaties, as well as commanding the armed forces, issuing executive orders, granting pardons and reprieves, and appointing secretaries, ambassadors, Supreme Court justices, and other government officials. The president’s power, however, is not absolute and is subject to checks and balances from other branches of the government, including the judiciary and the legislative branch. The impeachment process, which empowers Congress to remove the president from office if they engage in misbehavior or misconduct, is one of the most critical checks on the president’s power. This procedure is an important safeguard against authoritarianism and emphasizes the significance of responsibility in a democratic government. While the President has the authority to propose legislation and set the agenda for Congress, it is ultimately the responsibility of Congress to adopt laws and provide funds. So, it can be said that the executive and legislative parts of government have different powers, but many a times they overlap, resulting in conflict between them frequently. Ultimately, the executive branch of the US government is essential for developing national policy and safeguarding the interests of its citizens. The president is the country’s leader and is in charge of determining the country’s agenda. The president and the executive branch are significant forces in the US government, and it is critical to understand the president’s function as well as his powers and duties.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is the Executive Branch of the US government responsible for?

The executive branch is mostly responsible for enforcing the laws of the United States.

What is the composition of the US executive?

The president, vice president, and various government departments and agencies comprise the majority of the US executive.

What is the job of the President?

The Executive Branch is led by the President of the United States, who also acts as the country’s head of state and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The President is in charge of executing and implementing the laws established by Congress, as well as appointing the heads of government agencies, including the Cabinet.

What is the job of the Vice President?

The Vice President is also a member of the Executive Branch; he is the President of the Senate and is first in line for presidential succession if the President is unable to serve.


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