What the Constitution says
The President of the USA is elected for four years, with the right to re-election. He is both head of state and government. About four million people work in the American Executive, including the Armed Forces. It is the president’s job to implement the laws passed by Congress. As the highest diplomat, he can receive ambassadors – and thus recognize other states.
Control between Powers
The Three Powers influence each other so that they limit each other’s power. The president can grant pardons to convicted persons and appoint federal judges – but only with Senate approval. The president also appoints his ministers and ambassadors – if approved by the Senate. This is one of the ways in which the legislature controls the executive.
The importance of the State of the Union
The president informs Congress about the state of the country in the statement called the State of the Union. Although he is not authorized to present legislative proposals to Congress, the American president can present there the issues he considers important and, thus, pressure Congress to take action. But no more than that.
He can say “no”
When the president returns a bill to Congress without his signature, it means he vetoed it. This veto can only be lifted by Congress with a two-thirds majority in both chambers (House of Representatives and Senate). According to data from the Senate, throughout history, of the little more than 1,500 vetoes, only 111 were canceled, that is, 7%.
The Constitution and Supreme Court decisions do not clearly state how much power the president has. A trick allows for a second type of veto, the “pocket veto”. Under certain circumstances, the president can “pocket” a bill so it will not be valid. Congress cannot override that veto. The trick has been used more than a thousand times.
The president can order government officials to fulfill their responsibilities. These orders, known as “executive orders”, have the force of law. Nobody needs to ratify them. Even so, the president cannot do as he pleases. Courts can overturn these orders or Congress can pass a law against them. Or else the next president can just revoke them.
The president can negotiate deals with other governments, but in the end, they have to be approved by a two-thirds majority in the Senate. To circumvent this, instead of agreements, presidents use “executive agreements”, they are government documents that do not require Congressional approval. They can be applied as long as Congress does not oppose or approve laws that invalidate the agreement.
Congress can intervene
The president is the supreme commander of the armed forces, but it is Congress that can declare war. It is unclear to what extent a president can command soldiers in an armed conflict without prior approval. This happened in the Vietnam War when Congress intervened by law after believing that the president exceeded his competence.
Budget impeachment and rejection
If a president abuses his position or commits a crime, the House of Representatives can initiate an impeachment process. This has happened three times in American history but to no avail. However, there is a more powerful tool to hamper the president: because Congress is responsible for approving the public budget, it can veto it and thus paralyze the government’s work.