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The President of the United States

The President of the United StatesThe President is the head of the Executive Branch. The powers of the President of the United States are set forth in Article II of the Constitution. Some of these powers the President can exercise in his own right, without formal legislative approval. Others require the consent of the Senate or Congress as a whole. The following is a list of duties of the President of the United States:

National Security Powers:

  • Serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. He can authorize the use of troops overseas without declaring war. To declare war officially, though, he must get the approval of the Congress.
  • Makes treaties with other nations; however, the Senate must approve any treaty before it becomes official.
  • Nominates ambassadors, with the agreement of a majority of the Senate.
  • Receives ambassadors of other nations, thereby recognizing those lands as official countries.

Legislative Powers:

  • Presents information on the state of the union to Congress.
  • Recommends legislation to Congress. Despite all of his power, the President cannot write bills. He can propose a bill, but a member of Congress must submit it for him.
  • Convenes both houses of Congress in special sessions.
  • Approves laws passed by Congress.

Administrative Powers:

  • "Take care that the laws be faithfully executed" -- Article II, Section 3
  • Appoints the heads of each Executive Branch department as Chief of the Government. He also appoints ambassadors, Supreme Court Justices, and other officials, with the agreement of the majority of the Senate.
  • Requests written opinions of administrative officials.
  • Fills administrative vacancies during congressional recesses.

Judicial Powers:

  • Grants reprieves and pardons for Federal crimes (except impeachment).
  • Appoints Federal judges, with the agreement of the majority of the Senate.

The President's Lawmaking Role

The President plays a large role in making America's laws. His job is to approve the laws that Congress creates. When both chambers have approved a bill, they send it to the President. If he agrees with the law, he signs it and the law goes into effect.

If the President does not like a bill, he can veto it. There are two ways that he can veto a bill. First, the President can send the bill back to Congress unsigned. In most cases, he will also send a list of reasons he does not like the bill. Second, the President can "pocket" the bill. After ten days, one of two things happens: 1) if Congress is in session, the bill becomes a law anyway 2) if Congress has adjourned, the bill does not become law and the President has used a "pocket veto".

When the President vetoes a bill, it will most likely never become a law. Congress can override a veto, but to do so two-thirds of both the House of Representatives and the Senate must vote against the President.

Despite all of his power, the President cannot write bills. He can propose a bill, but a member of Congress must submit it for him.

Presidential Qualifications and Term Limit

Because he has so much responsibility, the President, along with the Vice-President, is the only official elected by the entire country. Not just anyone can be President, though. In order to be elected, one must be at least 35 years old. Also, each candidate must be a natural-born U.S. citizen and have lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years. When elected, the President serves a term of four years. The most one President can serve is two terms, for a total of eight years.

Before 1951, the President could serve for as many terms as he wanted. After two terms as President, George Washington chose not to run again. All other Presidents followed his example until Franklin D. Roosevelt successfully ran for office four times. He, however, did not complete his fourth term of office because he died in 1945. Six years later, Congress passed the 22nd Amendment, which limits Presidents to two terms.

GPO and the President

The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) publishes a wide variety of materials for the President. For example, when the White House releases the President's speeches, proclamations, and other presidential materials, they are published in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents, which is available on GPO Access.