Branches of the United States Government
Article I, The Constitution of the United States
The two houses of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives, make up the Legislative Branch. Congress has the power to levy and collect taxes, borrow money, regulate commerce, coin money, declare war, raise and support armies, and make laws. There are 100 senators and 435 representatives. Senators serve six-year terms, and representatives serve two-year terms. Each state is allotted two senators, and the number of representatives is determined by each state's population. For example, Texas has many more representatives than Rhode Island.
Article II, The Constitution of the United States
The President heads the Executive Branch. He oversees the cabinet, which includes the secretaries of State, Treasury, Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Education, Energy, and Veterans' Affairs, and the Attorney General. The President's responsibilities include enforcing and carrying out laws passed by the legislative branch, appointing or removing cabinet members and officials, negotiating treaties, and acting as head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces.
Article III, The Constitution of the United States
The Supreme Court heads the Judicial Branch, which interprets
the meaning of the Constitution and federal laws, upholds the
laws, or invalidates them. There are eight associate justices
and one chief justice. The President nominates the justices
to the Supreme Court and the Senate approves them.
GO TO TOP
Qualifications for President and Vice President
Article II, The Constitution of the United States
President of the United States
Term of Office
Four years; the president may not serve more than two successive terms; term ends in January
Qualifications for President
Natural born citizen; at least 35 years of age; a resident within the United States for 14 years before election
The Nation's Chief Executive and Chief of State; enforces federal laws; appoints and can remove high federal officials and U.S. diplomats; commands the armed forces; conducts foreign affairs; may recommend legislation to the Congress; signs legislation passed by both houses of the Congress into law; may veto legislation; may call Congress into special session
Annual salary $400,000
Vice President of the United States
Qualifications for Vice President
No qualifications are set out in the Constitution
Vice Presidential Functions
President of the U.S. Senate; other roles largely determined by the president; succeeds to the presidency if the president becomes unable to serve or dies
Annual salary $181,400
GO TO TOP
Roles of the United States President
As Chief Executive, the president helps run the government. As the United States Constitution requires, he/she oversees the operation of the Executive Branch of the government. The President makes sure that laws are enforced, appoints important officials, issues executive orders, reprieves and pardons, and coordinates the efforts of over 150 agencies. Some of these agencies are the Post Office, the Food and Drug Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, Bureau of the Mint, the National Park Services, and the Bureau for Traffic Safety Standards. The President's chief assistants are the members of the Cabinet, each of whom administers a large department of the federal government. The President also makes appointments to the Supreme Court.
Commander in Chief
The president is head of all the military forces. He is responsible for all activities of the defense forces--raising, training, and deploying (sending out or calling up) troops. As Commander in Chief, the president reviews the troops, awards service medals, and meets with military officers and civilian national security advisors.
Chief of State
As Chief of State, the president is involved in much ceremony. Duties involve such things as recognizing citizens for outstanding achievements in various fields (education, science, medicine, space exploration, etc.), entertaining and/or greeting leaders of foreign countries, celebrating/honoring special occasions (laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers to commemorate Veterans Day or laying a wreath at the Lincoln Memorial to remember Lincoln's birthday), promoting worthy causes, and meeting with citizen groups (such as the Girl Scouts).
The president is the leader, initiator, and guide of our foreign policy. In addition to the ceremonial duties with foreign leaders, the president frequently consults with those leaders to maintain relationships with them. As Chief Diplomat, the president appoints ambassadors to other nations, negotiates treaties or agreements with them, and appoints the Ambassador to the United Nations. The president also travels to other countries where the United States' positions and ideas on foreign affairs are voiced.
Although not a part of the Legislative Branch of government, the president is also the country's legislative leader. While advising and guiding Congress in its lawmaking activities, the president also recommends laws. When a bill passes both houses of Congress, the president may sign it and it becomes law. Each January the president gives the State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress. In this speech the president evaluates the country's last year of domestic and foreign relations and policies and reports on the fiscal status of the nation. Congress is also informed about what the president believes is important and what should be accomplished during the next year.
Chief of the Party
The president is leader of his/her own political party as long as he/she remains in office. The party helps keep the president informed of the needs of the nation and the people's reactions to government programs. As the leader of the party, the president frequently campaigns for or endorses other candidates running for office.
Voice of the People
When speaking to leaders of other nations, the president speaks for the citizens of the United States; the president also speaks to Congress for the people. When explaining actions taken by the administration, the president will inform the people through press conferences, television and radio broadcasts, newspapers, etc. Sometimes citizens are invited to visit with the president in the Oval Office.
GO TO TOP
The office of President of the United States is one of the most powerful in the
world. The president, the Constitution says, must "take care
that the laws be faithfully executed." To carry out this responsibility,
he or she presides over the executive branch of the federal
government -- a vast organization numbering several million
people -- and in addition has important legislative and judicial
Despite the Constitutional provision that "all legislative powers" shall be vested in the Congress, the president, as the chief formulator of public policy, has a major legislative role. The president can veto any bill passed by Congress and, unless two-thirds in each house vote to override the veto, the bill does not become law. Much of the legislation dealt with by Congress is drafted at the initiative of the executive branch. In annual and special messages to Congress, the president may propose legislation he or she believes is necessary. If Congress should adjourn without acting on those proposals, the president has the power to call it into special session. The president, as head of a political party and as principal executive officer of the U. S. government, is in a position to influence public opinion and thereby to influence the course of legislation in Congress. To improve their working relationships with Congress, presidents in recent years have set up a Congressional Liaison Office in the White House. Presidential aides keep abreast of all important legislative activities and try to persuade senators and representatives of both parties to support administration policies.
Among the president's constitutional powers is that of appointing important public officials. Presidential nomination of federal judges, including members of the Supreme Court, is subject to confirmation by the Senate. Another significant power is that of granting a full or conditional pardon to anyone convicted of breaking a federal law--except in a case of impeachment. The pardoning power has come to embrace the power to shorten prison terms and reduce fines.
Within the executive branch itself, the president has broad powers to manage national affairs and the workings of the federal government. The president can issue rules, regulations and instructions called executive orders, which have the binding force of law upon federal agencies. As commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States, the president may also call into federal service the state units of the National Guard. In times of war or national emergency, the Congress may grant the president even broader powers to manage the national economy and protect the security of the United States.
The president chooses the heads of all executive departments and agencies, together with hundreds of other high-ranking federal officials. The large majority of federal workers, however, are selected through the Civil Service system, in which appointment and promotion are based on ability and experience.
Powers In Foreign Affairs
Under the Constitution, the president is the federal official primarily responsible for the relations of the United States with foreign nations. Presidents appoint ambassadors, ministers and consuls -- subject to confirmation by the Senate--and receive foreign ambassadors and other public officials. With the secretary of state, the president manages all official contacts with foreign governments. On occasion, the president may personally participate in summit conferences where chiefs of state meet for direct consultation. For example, President Woodrow Wilson headed the American delegation to the Paris conference at the end of World War I; President Franklin D. Roosevelt conferred with Allied leaders during World War II. Every president since Roosevelt has met with world statesmen to discuss economic and political issues, and to reach bilateral and multilateral agreements.
Through the Department of State, the president is responsible
for the protection of Americans abroad and of foreign nationals
in the United States. Presidents decide whether to recognize
new nations and new governments, and negotiate treaties with
other nations, which are binding on the United States when approved
by two-thirds of the Senate. The president may also negotiate
"executive agreements" with foreign powers that are not subject
to Senate confirmation.
GO TO TOP
Amendment XXV, The Constitution of the United States
Order of Presidential Succession
NOTE: An official cannot succeed to the Presidency unless that person meets the Constitutional requirements.
- The Vice President
- Speaker of the House
- President pro tempore of the Senate
- Secretary of State
- Secretary of the Treasury
- Secretary of Defense
- Attorney General
- Secretary of the Interior
- Secretary of Agriculture
- Secretary of Commerce
- Secretary of Labor
- Secretary of Health and Human Services
- Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
- Secretary of Transportation
- Secretary of Energy
- Secretary of Education
- Secretary of Veterans Affairs
GO TO TOP
With these acts President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Congress wrote a record of
hope and opportunity for America:
Landmark Laws of the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration
GO TO TOP
President Johnson's administration produced the greatest outpouring of legislation
in America's history. Laws were enacted to end discrimination
and to fight poverty, to provide medical care to the old and
to extend educational opportunities to the young. In addition,
acts were passed to clean the air and water and reverse the
pollution of decades, to preserve precious land for public recreation
and to protect the natural beauty of the continent. Legislation
protected the consumer in the marketplace and enabled art, music
and theater to be brought to every corner of the nation.
Highlights of Legislation Passed During President Johnson's
Three major laws are the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Open Housing Act of 1968. These acts bring down the barriers that restricted black Americans from using restaurants, restrooms, theaters, and other public accommodations, end discrimination in where they choose to live, and assure all citizens their constitutional right to vote.
The federal government becomes an active partner in improving education and expanding its opportunities. Sixty separate bills, providing for new and better-equipped classrooms, minority scholarships, low-interest student loans, and a host of other innovations, open the doors of grade school through college to millions.
"The earth is in our care." This is the message brought home to Americans as the Great Society introduces measures to reclaim our heritage of clean air and water. Some 3,650 square miles of mountains, forest, and shoreline are preserved for the people's enjoyment, increasing by fifteen percent the nation's total parklands.
Four- and five-year-old children from disadvantaged families attend special classes where they get nourishing meals and medical attention, and a chance to start school on an even basis with other youngsters.
A more promising future is opened for young men and women who learn to farm, to weld, to build houses, and other skills that will enable them to lead useful, productive lives.
Health care is guaranteed to every American sixty-five and over. With the passage of this act, the threat of financial doom is lifted from senior citizens, and also from the sons and daughters who might otherwise have been burdened with the responsibility for their parents' care.
National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities
Artists, performers, and writers are a priceless part of our heritage and deserving of our support: that is the philosophy undergirding the creation of these programs, which infuse new resources into the country's cultural institutions and bring the joys of music, art, and theater to every part of the nation.
War on Poverty
A massive undertaking to eliminate poverty involves more than forty separate programs, all intended not just to improve living conditions but to enable people trapped in the cycle of poverty to lift themselves out of it.
GO TO TOP