Legislative Power of US President

Legislative Power of US President. The President may veto bills Congress passes, but Congress may also override a veto by a two-thirds vote in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Article I of the Constitution enumerates the powers of Congress and the specific areas in which it may legislate.

Legislative Power of US President:-

The Presidential system of government, separates the Executive and Legislative branches, as signing to each a major role in the government. No machinery is provided for integrating the two. But while the chief duty of the President is to execute the laws, he is at the same time given a share in their making. Rossiter characteristics the President as the Chief Legislator, though it appears to be an extravagant title.

He says, Congress still has its strongmen, bur the complexity of the problems it is asked to solve by a people who assume that all problems are solvable has made external leadership requisite of effective operation. The President alone is in a political, constitutional, and practical position to provide such leadership, and he is therefore expected, within the limits of constitutional and political propriety, to guide Congress in much of its lawmaking activity.  President’s share in law-making is both positive and negative.

Presidential Messages:-

The Constitution ordains that the President shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in case of disagreement between them, with respect to the time of adjournment, he may adjourn them to such time as he shall think proper. The Constitution in the presence of this specific provision contemplates Presidential leadership in matters of legislation and, indeed, as Charles Beard says, it is not too much to say that the fame of most Presidents rests upon their success in writing policies into law rather than upon their achievements as mere administrators. Presidents who successfully directed Congress in policy-making are Jackson, Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt. The nation had rated them great Presidents.

The information required to be furnished is contained in an annual message (State of the Union message) communicated at the beginning of each session, and in special messages communicated from time to time during the session. The Presidential message may be delivered orally in the presence of both Houses, or sent to them in a document. The annual message is major in significance and may roughly be compared to the Speech from the Throne in England.

Washington and Adams came in person to Congress to deliver information and make recommendations.  Jefferson adopted the practice of communicating what he had to say in the form of a written message. This was the rule for 113 years, when in 1913, President Wilson returned to Washington’s custom and began delivering his messages to Congress personally.

While reviving the earlier precedent Woodrow Wilson said, the President of the United States is a person, not a mere department of the government hailing Congress from some isolated island of jealous power, sending messages, not speaking naturally and with his own voice; he is a human being trying to co-operate with other human beings in a common service.

For a time Wilson’s successors followed i in his footsteps. President Hoover read his first message to the general public over the radio as well to Congress, but subsequently he resumed the old practice of sending written messages. Franklin D. Roosevelt restored the practice of reading personally the messages as a means of drawing the attention of the whole nation to his programme with the invaluable help of radio and camera. This was followed at short intervals by a succession of special messages, each dealing with a particular problem and outlining in some detail the administration’s proposed measures for dealing with it.

The annual message contains a review of the activities of government during the preceding year, a declaration of party policies, and recommendations for such legislation as the president deems the interests of the country require, Sometimes the message may contain an important announcement, warning some other country against pursuing a certain course of action.

It may also contain a momentous statement of principles as the Monroe Doctrine incorporated in President Monroe message of December 1823 or Roosevelt’s four freedoms which summarized objectives of American foreign policy in 1941. In March 1947, Truman appealed to Congress for aid to Greece and Turkey in their resistance to Russian aggression in the name of communism.

In 1954 session of Congress, President Eisenhower presented some sixty-five proposals for new legislation in his opening address and even supplementary in later messages plus the budget message and the annual economic report.

Less obvious, but equally important, are the frequent written messages sent from the White House to Congress on a vast scale of public problems. These messages arc read by a clerk, often indistinctly, and printed in the Congressional Record. They indicate the needs of the government and the necessity for an appropriate legislation and, thus, is a gesture to friendly legislators to the President to initiate the required measures, Often, these messages are accompanied by detailed drafts of legislation and the friendly legislators take them up as they are.

The consideration which the Presidential. Messages receive at the hands of Congress depends upon the influence which the President wields with the two Houses. If he belongs to a different political party from that which is in control of Congress, or if for other reasons Congress is out of sympathy with his policies, his recommendations receive very lithe consideration, Franklin Roosevelt assumed unprecedented leadership in legislation and every important measure enacted by Congress between 1933 and 1943 either emanate the Executive Departments or was sponsored by the President. But the Congressional election of 1942 made a sharp change in the attitude of Congress with a reduced Democratic majority and a general disapproval of his domestic policy.

The new Congress struck down one after another measures sponsored or favored by President Roosevelt. A similar position happened in 1973, when a political crisis developed between Republican President Nixon and Congress controlled by the opposition Democratic Party.

The most immediate issues were the ending of United States involvement in Vietnam and what many members of the Senate and the House of Representatives looked upon as (he usurpation of Congressional power by the President. Democratic leaders of the 93rd Congress pledged to take strong counter-measures to reassert the authority of Congress as a co-equal branch of the Government with the Executive.

President Jimmy Carter could Sense the tough and aggressive attitude of the Congress men whose minds were molded by the decade in which Presidents acted like monarch in determining foreign policy, making wars and subverting the executive structure of the Federal machine.

He demonstrated that he needed more Congress expertise for his domestic¢ measures and in the making of America’s foreign policy. it was an established White House ritual that Jimmy Carter met from two to a couple of dozen members of Congress and informally discussed matters with them.

The two-to-one Congressional majority of Democrats over Republicans, no doubt, worked to Carter’s advantage on routine issues, but, with impressive insistence, the 95th Congress declared its intention to share in the making of foreign policy, unlike any we have seen in history.

The House of Representatives voted to trim foreign aid in general than to deny United States Furies in international lending agencies to certain countries. Some of these restrictions were endorsed by the Senate, despite the appeal of the White House that such action would deny administration needed flexibility to conduct foreign policy. So familiar did the White House become with the issue of Congressional intrusion into foreign policy that President Carter declared, l have some good days on Capital Hill, but I have some bad days.

The House of Representatives rejected Carter’s recommendation to send nuclear fuel to India whereas the Senate decided in favor of the Presidential recommendation. Reagan began courting Congress extraordinarily when he organized a political action committee, called Citizens for the Republic, to finance Republican candidates for national and State offices. During the 1980 campaign, Reagan supporters in Congress created a network of Congressional advisory committees to develop policy positions for him and advise him on key concerns of constituents.

The courtship of Congress intensified during the transition the period in between his election and inauguration when the opinion of Doles and Senator John Tower, Storm Thurmond, and other Republicans heavily influenced Cabinet. choices. Reagan aides promised regular bipartisan leadership meetings with the President. Reagan himself met with a number of Senators. Democrats and Republicans touching all the right keys, Doles said. still Reagan had some very uneasy time with Congress and he had to give way or compromise on a number of crucial issues.

All the same, legislative leadership of the President cannot be discounted. The impact of the President’s personality aside, the delivery of  the oral messages, heard by tens of millions over the radio and heard and seen by additional millions, through television and newsreel, give greater emphasis to executive recommendations. The attendant publicity is frequently a factor in mobilizing public opinion in support of Presidential proposals. If, in addition, they receive popular approval, the Presidential prestige is enhance considerably.

In surmising up the legislative powers of the President, Rossiter says, The President who will not give his best thoughts to guide so the President who is temperamentally or politically unfitted to get along with Congress is now rightly considered a national liability.

John F. Kennedy in his A Candidate’s view of the presidency declared that the president cannot afford for the sake of the office as well as the nation to be another  Warren G. Hardinge described by one backer as a man who would, when elected, sign whatever bills the Senate sent him and not send bill for the  Senate to pass Rather than he must know when he to lead the Congress, when to consult it and when he should act alone.

Power to Call Extraordinary Sessions:-

The President is empowered to call extraordinary sessions of Congress for consideration of special matters of an urgent character. The President cannot of course, compel Congress to adopt his recommendations at a special session any more than at a regular session but he can some time hasten action and if he is backed by a strong public opinion he may be able to accomplish even more.

In earlier days when the second regular session of every Congress ended on March 4, with the next regular session not commencing until after the following December, special sessions were fairly numerous to deal with extraordinary situations specially in years like 1909, 1913, 1921, 1929 and 1933.

Under the new calendar introduced by the Twentieth Amendment the need for special sessions is less, because the intervals between regular sessions are shorter, and the new President after his inauguration finds a new Congress already in session.

In 1939, a special session was necessitated by the outbreak of War Since 1939, there had been only one occasion when President Truman called a Congress back to Washington after it had gone home without expectation of remitting.

The President is also given the power to adjourn Congress when there is disagreement between the House of Representatives and the Senate as ta time of adjournment. But this power has never been exercised, for Congress has always been able to agree on this subject.


A sound, complete, effective and practical! Budget system was inaugurated in 1921 under: the Budget and Accounting Act. Before there was an Executive office to enable the President to discharge the responsibilities of a Manager with regard to the expenditure of the administrative agencies. Each Department sf Government submitted and defended its budget directly to Congress and the President did not review the financial demands of Departments and independent agencies.

The Budget and Accounting Act, 1921 vests in the President the sole responsibility for requesting the grant of funds by Congress and empowers him to assemble, correlate, revive, reduce or increase the estimates of the several Departments and Establishments. He is required to submit to Congress a complete statement Budget of estimated revenues and expenditure and activities of the government as recommended programme. Budget is, thus, a detailed statement of policy objectives with means of achieving them for the guidance of Congress.

The Act of 1921 created the Budget Bureau as the organ for performing the work required of he President. It is empowered to supervise the spending activities of the various agencies and to advise the President on steps to be taken to introduce greater economy and efficiency in the administrative services. The Director of the Budget, who is head of the Bureau, is appointed by the President and acts directly and solely under the President. Since 1939, the Bureau has been located in the Executive Office of the President and has become the President’s largest and most valuable staff agency.

The Act also created the independent General Accounting Office, headed by the Comptroller General. In taking the initiative for transferring the Bureau of Budget to the Executive office of the President, providing high level advisers within the White House Office and creating an executive planning organization, Roosevelt made it possible for a President to come closer to fulfilling the charges of the office than would have been conceivable before -these steps were taken.

Power to Issue Ordinances:-

Under the legislative functions of the President may be included what is known as the ordinance power, that is, the power to issue certain orders and regulations having the force of law. The issuing of ordinances or executive orders as it is sometimes called, has now become such an important phase of the President’s legislative powers that in 1935 Congress passed a law, requiring that all executive orders, decrees or proclamations having general applicability and legal effect must be published in the Federal Register, which is issued daily.

Some of these regulations are issued by the President and other administrators under express authority conferred upon them by Acts of Congress; others are issued as a result of the necessity of prescribing means for carrying into effect the laws of Congress and the treaties; while still others are issued in pursuance of the constitutional powers of the President, and this he does as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, It has now become a normal practice with Congress to pass laws in general terms leaving discretionary authority with the President or the executive Departments to fill in the gaps and this is tantamount to legislating in fact.

The National Emergency Act, 1933, authorized the President to organize and regulate the industries of the United States to create new agencies, to make regulations for them, to delegate functions for subordinates, and to do other things deemed necessary to bring about economic prosperity.

The Trade Agreement of 1934 empowered the President to make the trade agreements with foreign nations and lower the existing tariff rates by 50 per cent And even more radical kind of delegation was contained in the Reorganization Act of 1939, Franklin Roosevelt, in fact, broke all records, Within a short time after his inauguration he prevailed upon Congress to delegate large powers to him and, thus, started an era of executive orders. Senator Herink Shipstead compiled the statistics and figured that President Roosevelt had issued 3,073 executive orders prior to 1944, During the same period 4,553 laws were passed by Congress.

The Congressional delegation of discretionary authority to the Executive has been a subject of deep controversy and described by many as a violation of the theory of Separation of Powers and an inroad on the legislative competence of Congress. The Supreme Court has established the general rule which requires that Congress should set standards and enunciate the policy under which the ordinance power is to be exercised by the President or his subordinates. In the National Industrial Recovery Act, 1933, for example, the Court found that the Congress had given the President power without required constitutional standard or policy to guide the Executive. The second case arose over the general National Recovery Act (NRA) code-making authority which the Court found delegated making to an even greater extent and was there fore unconstitutional.

Veto Powers:-

Finally, the President is given an important share in legislation through his veto power. The Constitution requires that all Bills and resolutions, except proposed constitutional amendments, must be submitted to the President before becoming law. If he approves, he appends his signatures thereto and it is promulgated as law. If he disapproves, he rectums it to the House in which it originated with his objection, within ten days. Congress,-by a two-third vote in each Chamber, may then pass it over his veto if the President fails to sign or veto the Bill within ten days, excluding Sundays, it becomes law without his signatures.

If Congress adjourns within ten days after the President receives the Bill and he takes no action, the Bill is automatically killed. This is known as the pocket veto and it is absolute. Towards the end of a session numerous Bills and resolutions are passed by Congress in order to clear up its accumulated business. A considerable number of the last-minute Bills, to which the President may be opposed or for which he does not want to take responsibility, thus, fail to become law and the Presidents have rather generously used this device. President Jimmy Carter killed in a single day (November 11, 1978) three Bills he considered inflationary.

The veto power has been used more vigorously during recent times than formerly. Eight Presidents, John Adams, Jefferson, J.Q. Adams, Van Buren, W. H. Harrison, Taylor, Filmore and Garfield, did not veto any Bills. The first six Presidents vetoed only three Bills. But in contrast to this Franklin D. Roosevelt alone vetoed 63 Bills (9 were overridden). Truman vetoed 251 Bills (12 overridden) and Eisenhower 86. The share of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan is no less. Both Franklin D. Roosevelt (1944) and Harry Truman (1948) ventured into new territory when they vetoed Tax Bills, though both were Overridden by Congress.

Washington and other early Presidents vetoed only those Bills which they regarded unconstitutional. Jackson was the first President to use this power to safeguard the Executive branches Of government against the encroachments of the Legislature. Now Presidents veto Bills which they regard as inexpedient, contrary to public Policy, or for any other reason that is considered Compelling. Eisenhower vetoed the first Farm ill to come to him in 1956 on the ground that it Was bad legislation.

But Congress too has often reasserted its authority by overriding the Presidential veto. The democratic majority in the Congress overrode President Ford’s veto for 11 times during his tenure of office. Only President Andrew Johnson (15 times) and President Harry Truman (12 times) had their veto quashed by Congress more often than Gerald Ford, who had served only half as Andrew Johnson and less than one third as long as Harry Truman.

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