What is the President’s Job?
Presidential candidates make a lot of promises they cannot keep… but mostly because what they promise is not the job of the President!
- Almost all of the promises Presidential candidates make cannot be kept because what they say they will do is the job of Congress.
- The Legislative Branch has illegally and un-Constitutionally ceded power to the Executive Branch.
- Each Branch of the Federal Government needs the proper barriers and checks enshrined in the Constitution.
Time to watch the Presidential debates again!
One candidate is promising a fix to immigration, one with the ultimate tax policy, one ready with a plan for healthcare, and yet another one the answer to our infrastructure woes. They all have interesting positions, some that you agree with and others you vehemently oppose. Listening to each candidate, you make a decision on which one is going to create or modify the functions of government the way you desire them to go. But there is one small problem in that decision:
That is not the job of the President.
Almost everything Presidential candidates and active Presidents talk about is really the job of Congress. Changes to social programs, taxes, protections, illegal acts, immigration, wages… almost everything you can imagine is all within Congress’s purview. Sure, the President has traditionally set an agenda that they would like Congress to follow, but Congress is under no obligation to follow that roadmap. In actuality, Congress is directed to be the check on the Executive Branch and make sure that the President and all of the departments under his authority are following the mandate as they have set out.
Congressional Cuts — Part 3 of 3: Fire Everyone
No one should spend their entire life serving in government; it’s time for term limits!
One might ask, then, what is the President of the United States truly responsible for?
Well, the Constitution gives the President very few duties at all. In total for all of Article 2 of the Constitution (plus Amendments that impact Article 2), here is everything the President is supposed to do:
- Section 1, Clause 1, Sentence 1: Be the executive.
- Section 1, Clause 8, Sentence 1b: Follow his oath to “the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
- Section 2, Clause 1, Sentence 1a: Be Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces — but only when Congress declares that Armed Forces can be used.
- Section 2, Clause 1, Sentence 1b: Act in a supervisory role to the heads of executive departments and have them submit written reports to him.
- Section 2, Clause 1, Sentence 1c: Grant reprieves and pardons, except in cases of impeachment.
- Section 2, Clause 2, Sentence 1a: Make an initial draft of a treaty that in turn must be approved by 2/3rd of the Senate.
- Section 2, Clause 2, Sentence 1b: Make nominations for ambassadors, ministers, officers, and judges that must be vetted and approved by Congress except if Congress grants the President direct rights to appoint people to “inferior” positions.
- Section 2, Clause 3, Sentence 1: Temporarily fill vacancies when Congress is not in session.
- Section 3, Clause 1, Sentence 1a: Give the “State of the Union” to Congress from “time to time”.
- Section 3, Clause 1, Sentence 1b: Force Congress (or just one of the Chambers of Congress) to either convene or adjourn, but only in “extraordinary Occasions”.
- Section 3, Clause 1, Sentence 1c: Receive foreign ambassadors and the like.
- Section 3, Clause 1, Sentence 1d: Execute the laws as created by Congress through whatever means are necessary to do so and have been granted.
- Section 3, Clause 1, Sentence 1e: Grant commissions to officers in the Armed Services or civilian equivalents.
- Section 4, Clause 1, Sentence 1c: If Congress cannot be convened, protect the States from “domestic Violence”.
- Amendment 25, Clause 2, Sentence 1: Nominate a Vice President should there be a vacancy in that position, though the nominee must be approved by a majority of Congress.
- Amendment 25, Clause 3, Sentence 1: Notify Congress when he is unable to do his duties so that the Vice President can take over on a temporary basis.
And… that is it. Other than that, it is just what is the checks on Congress with Veto power and withdrawing funds from the Treasury to pay for the things Congress has approved.
What is not in there or anywhere else in the Constitution is “Executive Orders”, or at least not the way we think about them. Orders from the President are needed so that he can do his job, namely because “he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed”. In other words, for Laws and the Constitution to be executed the President must send out commands to other administrators and departments to give them a process or have them follow the law. If Congress’s law or the Constitution is lacking, sending an order can fall in this bucket as a clarification.
Even first President George Washington submitted Executive Orders, with his first in 1789; although all that order did was tell the executive departments to submit a written report which is basically what Article 2, Section 2, Clause 1, Sentence 1b says is the President’s job and right. As time has moved on — and especially starting in the early 20th century — the number of Executive Orders has drastically increased. Part of that is the President has taken on the role of “Agenda Setter” and is seemingly establishing the pace for what Congress should work on and what the rest of the agencies of the government should be doing. The mass bureaucracy that has grown out of the wars of the 20th century has carte blanche control to make rules of their own and act as if those are “law” even though the Constitution is very clear that only Congress can make law.
But how did the President and the rest of the Executive Branch get this power? The only answer is that Congress ceded responsibility through a combination of neglecting their duties and purposely handing them away. Party politics have made it worse because, as shown in the prior section, each group is just waiting until they have both houses of Congress and the Presidency to pass into law what they desire and do not want to slow down for any reason. Congress and the President are loyal to their party first and the nation second, and they are trying to work together as a team to do the bidding of the party.
As noted previously, having a healthy separation of powers and not ceding responsibility is an important check and balance, as is making sure no party can dominate both the legislature and the Executive Branch at the same time. The changes before this to Congress would leave a world where not only could no single party force a policy, but the existing laws would come up for review in short order and Congress could retake the powers it has given away.
Right now, the President can do many things that he should not be able to do like set tariffs, deploy the military in foreign lands, completely change the directions of federal agencies on a whim or new election, spy on American citizens, and many more. Each new Congress fails to reign in the Executive Branch because it is not in their best interests of their personal political careers. That is not to say there are not legislators who have not attempted or do not want to do this, just that they cannot given the current makeup of Congress.
What we have done to this point is hopefully create a legislature that can regain all their powers and restore the balance that was intended in the Constitution. Now then, we must do the same to the Executive Branch through a variety of changes that accomplish the following goals:
- Create a system of electing the President and Vice President that assures full participation of the electorate, reflects a positive and negative combined will of the people, and forces further separation of parties that are in Congress from those elected to lead.
- Reorganize the entire Federal Government and Armed Forces for efficiency, cost savings, simpler understanding, and to limit the scope and reach of these agencies so as not to violate the 10th Amendment that grants rights to the States and the people.
- Get even more explicit with the duties of the Legislative and Executive Branches, especially in relation to how the military is used and tools for the Executive Branch to make sure Congress does its job.
- An ability for the Executive Branch to use similar State resources to accomplish its duties instead of creating new Federal ones.
At the end of the day, the changes to Congress will still make a greater impact, but the Executive Branch deserves a compliment of changes all its own. More than all that, though, is making sure the people of the United States are a part of the election process, and they will not feel that way unless specific Amendments are made to make sure their voice is heard in the election of the President and all other positions.
TO BE CONTINUED…