What are the Constitutional, Political, and Institutional Powers of the United States President?


Within the American Constitution, the president’s powers are inadequately outlined and discussed. In essence, the fundamental law of the state explains how to elect presidents, their serving terms, qualifications, succession processes, and the procedure of impeachment. Therefore, the constitutional power given to the president is arguably the weakest. However, the president can source power from both institutional and political resources. It is worth noting that through politics and social institutions, presidents and particularly those in the 20th century, have successfully exercised their powers during their terms, thus gaining support from the voters and their affiliate parties. On the other hand, the congressional powers have been overridden, and a balance of power no longer exists between the legislature and executive branches. Although various explanations have been provided on why presidents reacted to certain issues, their resolutions are often seen to bring conflicts in leadership in America. Therefore, this study describes the powers of the president as per the constitution, how they source power from institutional and political resources, and the future of checks and balances of the legislature and executive branches.

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The President’s Constitutional Powers

The United States Constitution grants the executive branch four major powers, including the military, diplomatic, representative, and legislative. In fact, through military powers, the president is referred to as the Commander-in-Chief, who is responsible for all the armed forces (Ginsberg et al. 316). With this authority, the executive ensures the security of America and its citizens, thus preventing military attacks from potential enemies. In addition, the president is constitutionally assigned diplomatic powers. Therefore, the state leaders can make treaties with other foreign nations with consent and recommendation from Senate. Moreover, presidents recognize other countries, receive their ambassadors or public ministers, represent America in other states, and perform any ceremonial duties whenever needed.

 Additionally, the president can appoint (Ginsberg et al. 316). In essence, it is the executive’s responsibility to appoint consuls, ambassadors, public ministers, supreme court judges, and other public officers within America but with the Senate’s approval. In addition, the head of state can grant presidential pardons to federal law offenders, reducing prison terms and fines. Through the legislative powers, the president can veto any legislation submitted by Congress (Ginsberg et al. 318). Under those premises, once a bill passes both legislative houses, it is taken to the president’s administration for approval. However, if the law is not satisfactory, then the president, at his/her liberty, can deny signing the bill until it is amended.

Presidential Political and Institutional Resources

Both political and institutional resources are used to strengthen the feeble constitutional powers of the president. With these possessions, the executive branch can speedily resolve emergencies without waiting for the lengthy legislative approval process. Moreover, both resources are essential tools for easing the president’s ability to mobilize the citizens and govern the country. Particularly, presidents have extensively used institutional resources to rule the country. Notably, these funds are sourced on a licit scheme including the White House employees, the kitchen cabinet, the vice president, the president’s first spouse, independent government organizations and agencies, and advisers in the Executive Office of the President (EOP).

Specifically, the kitchen cabinet is resourceful for the executive because they guide and counsel the president on important issues. On the other hand, the White House staffs are responsible for acquiring and gathering critical information from all parts of the country, thus preventing the president from being caught by surprise on issues on security and national interest (Ginsberg et al. 323). In addition, the EOP is also an essential institutional resource because it undertakes various management tasks. In fact, independent organizations and agencies manage the budget, the environment, America’s security, and economic trends (Ginsberg et al. 325). For instance, the information provided by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2013 helped President Obama prepare the US for climate change as scientists were allowed to research the Alaskan glacier shrinking rate.

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Furthermore, vice presidents act as important institutional resources, especially after the elections. Again, their offices are essential as they are assigned management duties for sitting presidents. For example, President George Bush gave Dick Cheney significant responsibility for waging war against terror in 2001. Consequently, in Obama’s administration, Joe Biden has remained vital because, over the years, he has ensured that policies or laws are in-depth analyzed before they are recommended to the president. First spouses have also been essential institutional resources for leaders. First ladies, including Michelle Obama, have been used to launch and administer necessary policies during President Obama’s terms. For instance, Michelle is remembered for her active campaign in 2010 against obesity (Ginsberg et al. 326). Similarly, the reason for using first spouses in many campaigns is that they are rarely in the limelight and under scrutiny, especially by the media.  

Conversely, the political resources take a more informal approach as presidents rely on parties, mobilizing citizens, and upholding a strong administration policy (Ginsberg et al. 327). As such, party affiliations are an essential political resource for the country’s chief executive, but they have become unreliable over the centuries. However, the strength of a sitting president’s political party often determines the ease of implementation of his legislation. For example, in 2010, President Obama relied on the Senate to help him win his federal judicial appointment. However, creating support bases against their political opponents is considered one of the strongest political resources for 20th-century executives. In this information age, presidents have taken the trend of informing the public, especially on online platforms. For example, President Obama, during his election in 2008 and 2012, composed a Web tool where he communicated with his supporters, advertised, defended, and prepared them for the general elections (Ginsberg et al. 329). In fact, the White House today has a website where the president’s speeches are published, and conferences are posted on YouTube daily. Similarly, taking on the media has allowed leaders to administrate the American citizens directly.

The other most active political resource for presidential powers is the construction of enhanced administrative control strategies. In this case, the plans include increasing the capabilities of the EOP, and federal bureaucracy, administering through executive orders, and regularly signing statements. Therefore, these strategic resources have made it possible for the presidents to accomplish their long-term goals without the support of the public, partisans, or the legislative body. For instance, in 2012, President Obama stopped the deportation of immigrants who had come to America as children despite the lack of documents. President Bush also extensively issued orders which added up to 300 guidelines during his administration (Ginsberg et al. 332). In essence, some of these bills included the order against a terrorist attack in 2001 and federal funding for family planning researchers.

Future Balance of Power

Presidents in this century have extensively used institutional and political resources to strengthen their weak constitutional powers. This change makes the future of a balanced congress and other executives seem bleak. Therefore, the reason for this weakness is anchored on the aspect that the legislature takes long procedures to react to emergencies while the president hastily resolves issues, especially those under a state of urgency (Ginsberg et al. 335). However, despite decreasing the powers of Congress and strengthening the executive branch, the initial idea of the Framers of the American Constitution is that both branches coexist through checks and balances. Nonetheless, the lack of proper inspections and equilibriums has landed America in trouble in security matters and its economy, with presidents making decisions without consulting Congress.


In the United States, the issue of power-sharing between congress and the executive has remained a serious problem throughout the years. Nonetheless, while the president is considered the most powerful individual, his/her constitutional powers are not well defined, thus creating a loophole in the leadership capacity of the head of state. Therefore, leaders nowadays source more power from the institutional and political resources they have. With the help of these resources, the executive branch can now be considered stronger in its administrative duties while Congress becomes weak consequently. That is why the idea of balanced power between Congress and the president may not be realized in the future because both branches react differently to emergencies and urgent situations.


Work Cited

Ginsberg, Benjamin, Lowi, Theodore J. Weir, Margaret, Tolbert, Caroline J, and Spitzer Robert J. We the People: An Introduction to American Politics. Boston, MA: W W Norton & Company Incorporated, 2014.Print.

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