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UNIT 5: The President and the Executive Branch. 1. The Executive Branch: Executing the Laws. What is the Executive Branch?. X-Branch is more than just the President. It includes: All cabinet level departments most federal agencies, bureaus and commissions

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The President and the

Executive Branch

what is the executive branch
What is the Executive Branch?

X-Branch is more than just the President.

It includes:

  • All cabinet level departments
  • most federal agencies, bureaus and commissions
  • over 3 m employees & 1.8 m armed forces members
  • you, your parent(s) and me!
here s the kicker

The Constitution does not specifically mention any of it either! It simply states that the President has the power to:

“take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”

wanted president
Wanted: President
  • 4 year term (2x max, or 10 years)
  • No limit on number of terms until 1951 (After FDR was elected 4 times), 22nd Amendment: only two 4-year terms
  • Salary: $400,000
  • Other Benefits: $50,000 expense account, 132-room White House, a yacht, Air Force One, Secret Service Detail, helo, Camp David, free health care, travel
presidential succession
Presidential Succession

If President dies, resigns or is removed from office, next to take over is….

1.    Vice President

2.    Speaker of the House

3.    President pro tempore of the Senate

4.    Secretary of State

5.    Secretary of the Treasury

the vp
The VP

Constitutional Duties:

1. Serve as president of Senate (break ties)

2. Decide on presidential disability (25th Amendment)

9 VPs have become President 

(4 assassinations, 4 deaths, 1 resignation)

Recently, VPs have increased the profile and power of Vice President after someone made the office a joke....

Curse of the 20s is broken!

james danforth dan quayle
James Danforth "Dan" Quayle

“Republicans understand the importance of bondage between a mother and child.”

"I believe we are on an irreversible trend toward more freedom and democracy -- but that could change.”

"One word sums up probably the responsibility of any vice president, and that one word is 'to be prepared.‘”

"A low voter turnout is an indication of fewer people going to the polls."

"I love California, I practically grew up in Phoenix."

44th VP of the USA

the vp1
The VP

Historically, “President in waiting” with little to do.

“The most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.” -VP John Adams

“The vice presidency isn’t worth a warm pitcher of spit (or piss)” –VP John Garner

formal powers
Formal Powers:
  • Commander in Chief of the military
    • Military Powers: Pres. can make “undeclared” war by executive orders. Has happened often in US history (Korea, Vietnam, Grenada, Libya, Gulf War, Somalia, Kosovo, and now)
    • War Powers Resolution: Congress’s attempt to check the President’s “undeclared” war power:
      • Congress must be briefed with 48 hours
      • Combat commitment must end in 60 days, unless Congress approves more
      • Congress can end combat commitment at any time
formal powers chief executive
Formal Powers: Chief Executive
  • “Faithfully execute” the laws
  • Require the opinion of heads of executive departments
  • Grant pardons for federal offenses except for cases of impeachment
  • Nominate judges of the Supreme Court and all other officers of the U.S. with consent of the Senate
  • Fill vacancies that may happen during recess of the Senate
informal powers
Informal Powers
  • Those powers not explicitly written in the Constitution
    • Similar to “necessary and proper” powers of Congress
  • Persuader in Chief: to be successful, presidents must convince Congress, citizens, foreign leaders…
  • In the modern era (since 1933), the President’s informal powers may be significantly more powerful than his formal powers….
executive orders
Executive Orders
  • Orders issued by the President that carry the force of law
    • Clinton’s “Don’t ask don’t tell” gays in the military policy
    • FDR’s internment of Japanese Americans
    • GWB trying suspected terrorists in military tribunals

Notice for Japanese “relocation,” 1942

executive agreements
Executive Agreements
  • International agreements, usually related to trade, made by a president that has the force of a treaty; does NOT need Senate approval
    • Jefferson’s purchase of Louisiana in 1803
executive privilege
Executive Privilege
  • Claim by a president that he has the right to decide that the national interest will be better served if certain information is withheld from the public, including the Courts and Congress
  • United States v. Nixon (1973) – presidents do NOT have unqualified executive privilege (Nixon Watergate tapes)

STARTER:1. How many employees worked in the White House office IN FDR’s time? Now?2. Describe and explain 3 criticisms of the “modern presidency”.3. How did 9/11 make being the president easier?4. How has modern media affected the president’s ability to perform his job?5. Describe 3 possible solutions to the problem.

the presidency the first branch
The Presidency : the First Branch?

Over the past 225 years, the power of the U.S. President has grown. Why you ask?

1.    Executive branch is not divided.

2.     Pres. have increased the power of the office (Bush)

3.     U.S.A. has become more complex, so has the office.

4.     National emergencies require quick response.

why has the presidency become the first branch
Why has the Presidency become the First Branch?

5.    Congress has increased the size of ex. branch

6.    All the president’s roles.

7.    Large staff.

8. Media attention.

public opinion political capital
Public Opinion & Political Capital
  • Why does public opinion matter to a president?
    • High Popularity= congressional support for President’s programs
    • Low Popularity= tough go in Congress
  • Presidents tend to most popular at the beginning of their term when they have lots of political capital
  • POLITICAL CAPITAL: collection of political assets (good will, popularity, connections) that can be spent on a politician’s programs 
  • What creates political capital? Success 
public opinion political capital1
Public Opinion & Political Capital
  • President’s popularity is usually highest at beginning of term (honeymoon), therefore a new president will spend some political capital early.
    • FDR: First 100 days
    • Clinton: Health Care Reform
    • Bush: Energy Policy, Anti-Terrorism Efforts
    • Obama: Economic Stimulus


Coming: Summer of 2019

Starter1. Create a T-Chart listing arguments both FOR and AGAINST the expansion of presidential power.2. What is political capital? How is it gained? When should it be used? Why?

  • Cabinet is group of advisors chosen by President to help accomplish work of Executive Branch
  • Today, it consists of the heads of the following depts:
  • Agriculture
  • Commerce
  • Defense
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Justice
  • Health and Human Services
  • Homeland Security
  • Housing and Urban Dev.
  • Interior
  • Labor
  • State
  • Transportation
  • Treasury
  • Veterans Affairs

Conflicting Roles

of Cabinet Members

President usually selects a diverse group of cabinet member (geographically and ethnically)

top cabinet positions
Top Cabinet Positions


Sec. of Defense


Sec. of State


Attorney General


Sec. of Treasury



the bureaucracy is
The Bureaucracy is…

All the offices and individuals under the president charged with carrying out the government’s policies

  • . Hierarchical structure
  • . Job specialization
  • . Formal rules




big massive bureaucracy
  • Why SO BIG?
    • Laws passed have given gov’t more to do---who does it? The Bureaucracy 
  • 17 Million workers in all (6 % of USA)
    • 5.6 M Contractors
    • 4.6 M State/local on federal mandate
    • 2.4 M Federal grants
    • 1.9 M Civil servants
    • 1.5 M Military
    • 0.9 M Postal
  • Depends if it has discretionary authority (the power to make policies) 
  • Some powerful agencies have the power to:
    • pay subsidies to groups (farmers)
    • transfer $ from Fed.States (grants)
    • create regulations (air bags


    • Waste
    • Red Tape
    • Conflict
    • Imperialism


Tried often, but

hard to do.

according to wilson
According to Wilson:
  • No incentives for bureaucracies to profit. Extra money? Bureaucracies spend it or send it back.
  • Bureaucracies are controlled by outside masters (Congress)
    • Cannot make changes easily
    • Cannot respond to customer’s demands
    • Managers lack independence
  • Lack of Competition
    • Bureaucracies do not fear the customer will go somewhere else, they only fear complaints of congress which are rare.

Control of the Federal Bureaucracy

  • Congress:
    • Appropriate
    • Investigate
    • Create laws
    • Confirm
  • Presidency:
    • Appoint
    • Remove
    • Direct


fiscal policy taxing
Fiscal Policy: Taxing

TAXES: 2010: 2.1 Billion

(Income taxes are progressive…rich pay more)

You make < $22,100 =15% income tax

You make > $ 250, 000 = 39% income tax


BORROWING: Over the past 50 years the US Gov’t usually spends more than it makes, so it has to borrow.

How? Sells Treasury Bonds: Gov’t IOUs w/ interest

Public Debt today:

Is this good or bad?

fiscal policy spending
Fiscal Policy: Spending
  • Federal spending:

2/3 of this is spent on entitlements (SS, Medicare ,etc.)

  • Top spenders (discretionary)

Dept. of Defense: 515 B

  • Who decides the budget?
    • President submits budget to Congress
    • Congress dissects budget and tries to pass it by October 1st.
policy making
Policy Making

War on Terror





Green Energy

Health Care


policy making 101
Policy Making 101
  • So far we have studied “how” of government (how a law is made, how the Supreme Court works or how the president is elected).
  • Policies are the “what” of government and differ greatly from one government to the next (tax cuts, welfare reform or war on Iraq).
  • Types of Policies
    • fiscal policy : involving taxing and spending
    • monetary policy: involving gov’t regulation of money supply
    • foreign policy: relationship with other nations
    • social policy: welfare (TANF: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), health care, unemployment, social security, etc.
economic policy
Economic Policy

Key Economic Factors:

  • Unemployment: % of people wanting work w/o work
  • Inflation: increase in prices
  • Growth: increase in goods/services

The Fed (Fed’l Reserve Bank) implements monetary policy by:

1.Buying/Selling T-Bonds

2.Sets % of money banks must have in vault

3. Sets interest rates for banks

economic policy1
Economic Policy
  • Economic Policy Choices: What’s the role of gov’t in the economy
    • Monetarian: increase $ supply= economic growth
    • Keynesian: Gov’t spends to jumpstart economy (New Deal)
    • Planning: Gov’t regulates prices and wages (socialism)
    • Supply-Side: Gov’t cut taxes and stay out of way of business (Reagan)

Iron Triangle

(AKA Issue Network)