President of the United States

As the head of the government of the United States, the president is arguably the most powerful government official in the world

A Single Executive President of the United States:-

One of the grave weaknesses in the organization of government under the Articles of Confederation was the absence of executive authority to carry into effect the determinations of Congress and the treaties of the United States, The imminent need with the framers of the Constitution at the Philadelphia Convention was to provide an executive department co-ordinate with the legislative department. It was, accordingly declared that the executive power should be vested in an officer called the President of the United States.

The basic considerations dominated the discussions relating to the Presidency. The first was the need to have an energetic yet dignified executive capable of enforcing national laws firmly, and one which should lend a note of stability to the new government. The other was a fear that the people would be critical if the executive was made too strong. Many alternatives were suggested and discussed.

Men, like James Wilson, wanted a strong executive independent of the legislature. It was argued, and Locke and Montesquieu were freely quoted in support of their advocacy, that if, the Separation of Powers was desirable, it was logical to have three co-ordinate branches of government with No one predominant over the others.

There were others who wished to have the executive magistracy appointed by Congress and subject to its mandate, Some delegates favored one-man Executive others advocated a plural executive Composed of two or three men possessing equal Power.

The final decision on the Presidency was & compromise. The President was to be single and independent of the legislature. Even after the Single executive was agreed upon, many argue Associate with the President an executive council which would share with him the exercise of executive power in certain important fields. The Proposition was rejected and in its place the Senate was charged with acting as an executive Council to the President in negotiating treaties and the making of appointments.

The Philadelphia Convention, in brief, finally decided to vest in the President considerable executive power, but he was hemmed in by the system of checks and balances. In this way, the framers of the Constitution accomplished both their objectives. By making him independent of the legislature and eligible for re-election, stability and continuity were assured. By sufficiently checking his powers the fears of the people at that time who had a horror of unlimited power, were avoided.

Sections 2 and 3 of Article II of the Constitution are devoted to enumeration of Presidential powers. But much of the President’s authority has accrued to him by virtue of factors beyond the powers conferred upon him by the Constitution.

No important institution, as Harold Laski says,

Is ever that the law makes it merely. It accumulates about itself traditions, conventions, ways of behavior, which, without ever attaining, the status of formal law, are not less formidable in their influence than law itself could require.

And the growth in power and prestige of the Presidency of the United States is a prominent example of the unforeseen possibilities of a written Constitution. If with the Founding Fathers the problem was, how strong should the executive be, the same problem confronts the Americans, even today.

The people also ask, Why has the President become so powerful? Is this a dangerous tendency ? We will deal with this aspect later in the:Chapter. But one thing is clear. No longer could a James Bryce write on the subject, Why Great Men are not chosen Presidents.

Qualifications and Compensation:-

The Constitution requires that the President shall be a natural born citizen, that he must have attained the age of thirty-five years, and must have been for fourteen years & resident of the United States. The question of residence was raised by the opponents of Herbert Hoover who had not been a resident for fourteen consecutive ears immediately prior to his election in 1828, although he had resided in the United States considerably more than fourteen years altogether.

According to Ferguson and McHenry the interpretation of Article II requiring residence for fourteen years continuously and immediately preceding election appears unwarranted. These constitutional requirements apart, Congress has in effect added to them by providing that persons convicted of various federal crimes will, in addition to other penalties, be incapable of holding office under the United States.

The salary and other emoluments of the President are fixed by Congress. They cannot, however, be increased or diminished during his tern of office. From 1909 to 1940, the salary of the President was $ 75,000 a year. In 1949 it was raised to $100,000 plus $50,000 tax-free expense allowance. In 1953, the tax-free features of the latter sum were eliminated and the salary became $150,000 for all practical purposes.

According to the Presidential Increase Act, 1969, the salary was increased to $200,000 and 4 general expense fund of $50,000. Both are subject to income-tax. The legislation was ascents  to by President Johnson on January 18, 1969, two days before he relinquished his office.

President Richard Nixon was the first recipient of the new increase in salary. Separate budgetary provisions are made for his travel, official entertaining, and White House, the official residence of the President. After relinquishing office, Ex-Presidents, under a Presidential Retirement Law of 1958, get an annual pension of $60,000, free office space and up to $ 96,000 a year for office staff.

The President is immune from arrest for any offense and is not subject to the control of courts. No process can be issued against him or compel him:to perform any act. He can be removed from office only by Impeachment but after removal he is liable to arrest and punishment according to law.

Presidential Term:-

There was a vexing discussion in the Philadelphia Convention regarding the term of office of the President. It was first agreed that the term should be seven years with provision against re-election. On reconsideration, however, it was ultimately fixed at four years and nothing was said with regard to re-eligibility. When the Constitution simply stipulates that he shall hold his Office during the term of four years, the framers, no doubt, allowed the indefinite re-eligibility of the President.

The first President, Washington, set a two-term custom and it was followed for a century and a half, although two unsuccessful bids were made for a third term by Grant and Theodore Roosevelt. Grant failed to secure the party nomination whereas Theodore. Roosevelt was defeated at the polls. When the question of possible third term for Calvin Coolidge first arose, the Senate passed a resolution declaring that any departure from the two-term tradition would be unwise, unpatriotic, and fraught with peril to our free institutions.

Thus, the tradition seemed to have been fairly well established when in 1940 President Franklin D. Roosevelt decided to accept the Democratic nomination for the third successive term and his victory at the polls repealed the tradition. He was elected even for the fourth term in 1944, although he died soon after the inauguration. But the breaking of the tradition by Franklin Roosevelt was not to become a precedent for indefinite re-election.

The Twenty-Second Amendment, adopted in 1951 bars any person from being elected more than twice, Nor can a President be elected more than once if he has served more than half the term to which another President was elected. For example, Gerald Ford assumed office in the second year of Richard Nixon’s four-year term, he could serve as President only for one more term.

Mode of Election:-

Perhaps no other question consumed so much time of the Philadelphia Convention as that relating to the method of choosing the President. Various schemes were proposed. Some proposed a direct election by the people, while others urged election by the Congress, The direct method of election by the people was ruled out for various reasons. The framers of the Constitution intended, to establish a method which would, as Hamilton put it, afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder, and would not convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements. Against the method of election by Congress, it was argued that such a method was the negation of the unanimously accepted principle of the Separation of Powers and that it would make the President a mere creature or tool of that assembly.

The finally adopted plan was the expedient of indirect election. The Constitution provided that the President will be chosen by electors appointed in each State in such manner as the legislature of that State may direct, and each State to have as many electors as it has Senators and Representatives in Congress. The method, thus, adopted, enabled the electors to meet in due course, each group in its own State, and give their votes in writing for two persons, of whom at least one must not be an inhabitant of the same State as elector. The ballots were then sealed and transmitted to the presiding officer of the Senate who counted them in the presence of both the Houses and announced the result.

The person receiving the highest number of votes was to be the President and the one obtaining next to him was to be the Vice-President, provided, both had obtained a clear majority of the electoral votes. In case, no one obtained a majority of the electoral votes, the House of Representatives was to choose, voting by States and each State having one vote, from among the five highest. In the event of a tic in the electoral vote, it was provided that the issue would be settled in the same way.

The Founding Fathers had expected that the electors of the different States would be talented and leading citizens presumably well acquainted with the qualifications and merits of the candidates for Presidency. They had also hoped that the electors would meet at their respective State capitals, discuss among themselves the Qualifications and merits of each candidate, and, then, exercising their best judgment, cast their votes for the fittest. In the first two elections the quiet and dignified procedure contemplated by the framers, functioned exactly as they had expected. At the third election (1796), however, a hew shape of things began to emerge and long before the electors met, it was well known that most of the Presidential electors would vote for either John Adams or Thomas Jefferson, although in no case were any pledges exacted.

By this time two national parties, the Republicans and the Federalists, had come into existence and when the Presidential election took place in 1800, the electors were party functionaries pledged to vote for the candidates of their own parties. The Republicans, who elected a majority of their electors, had their candidates, Jefferson for President and Aaron Burr for Vice President. It so happened that Jefferson and Burr had polled exactly seventy-three votes each. In accordance with the constitutional provision the election was thrown to the House of Representatives which was still controlled by the Federalists. It was with the greatest difficulty that Jefferson was elected, because some of the Federalists had toyed with the idea of making Burr the President.

However, this incident revealed that the mode of election was defective and must be amended. Immediately thereafter the Twelfth Amendment was adopted ? to avoid the repetition of such an incident. Each voter now separately votes for the President and Vice-President and one who secures the majority of votes in each case stands elected. If-no candidate for Presidency secures a majority of electoral votes, the House of Representatives chooses from among the three men with the highest electoral votes.

The House votes by State delegation, with each delegation casting one vote. A majority of the members of each delegation determine how the State’s single vote will be cast, if members of a delegation are evenly divided, then that State’s vote is not counted. A majority of all the States is needed for election.

If no man receives a majority of the votes cast for Vice-President, the Senate chooses between the two men with the highest votes. Each Senator casts one vote, and election requires a majority of full members of the Senate. A law of 1887 declares that each State will determine the authority of its selection of electors.

Thus, the constitutional indirect method of Presidential election has been upset by the growth of political parties and political practices. Although the language of the Constitution relating to Presidential election remains unchanged, but the business of nominating candidates for Presidency, carrying on campaigns, and casting ballots has become a popular operation of national importance.

The real choice of the President, graphically remarks Charles Beard, has been transferred to the national convention of the winning party, and the mass of voters supporting the party at the polls. In this way, the deliberative, dignified procedure contemplated by the framers of the Constitution has teen replaced by a popular operation of the first magnitude.

It fills the land with discussions and agitations for six months or more every four years. It puts at stake the ambitions of individuals in quest of power, the interests of classes, and the fortunes of the country. Nearly everybody takes part in it, from the President, busy re-electing himself or helping to select his successor,? down to ordinary citizens who discourse on the merits of candidates with as much assurance as on the outcome of the latest prize fight.

The performance involves endless discussions, public and private, oratory, uproar, surveys, the election of thousands of delegates to elaborate national conventions, the concentration of opinion on a few ambitious leaders, a nationwide propaganda as the sponsors for various aspirants exhibit the qualifications of their favorites to the multitude, and the expenditure of millions of dollars on publications, meetings, rounding up delegates and seeing that goods are delivered.

Until recently candidates could raise funds from any source available and were totally free to spend as much money as they wanted. Successful fund raisers or independently wealthy candidates were often accused by their opponents of trying to buy the electors.

Sustained efforts were made to reform the process of campaign financing and ultimately Congress, in 1971, 1974 and 1976, passed election laws that impose strict limits on both contributors and candidates, The new laws also provide for public funds to be made available to candidates who have successfully raised some funds within the prescribed limits and who agree to limitations on their campaign spending, both in primaries and general elections.

The funds for candidates come directly from tax-payers, instead of from regular Treasury appropriations. Taxpayers voluntarily may check a box on their income-tax forms to express their Support for the matching-fund system. Each tax payer who checks the box, funnels $ i of taxes into a special fund, which is later distribute qualified candidates. To qualify for federal aid in the primaries, candidates must raises at least $5,000 in individual contributions of $ 250 or less in each of the 20 States.

The Federal Government matches these contributions dollar to dollar Presidential candidates must also stay within an overall spending ceiling determined by an infection-based formula and expected to be about 15.9 million for 1980. For the general election, the Democratic and Republican nominees may neither receive nor spend private funds if they want to qualify for public funds. In 1980 they were eligible for grants of approximately $2.5 million, In 1976, public funds were the only source of revenue for Jimmy Carter and Gerald R. Ford, either of whom received about $21.8 million.

What happens now is that within the constitutional framework described above, a standardized State procedure has developed under which electors are elected on a general ticket basis. The list of electors is made up by the official party organization in each State and this honor goes to distinguished citizens or to partisans will in to make liberal contribution to campaign funds. On the election day the voter does not directly vote for President and Vice-President, but for all the Presidential electors put up by his party in his State.

Normally, the party which secures a plurality of the popular votes in any State is entitled to all the electoral ballots of the State for President and Vice-President. Not too many hours after the polls close, it is usually known who will be the next President of the United States, However, the voters verdict in the election of the electors is the last act in the presidential drama. Technically, the voters have only elected the electors and it is the job of the latter to elect the President.

Each of the States possesses as many Presidential electors as it has Senators and Representatives in Congress. The total number of electors constituting the electoral collage is 538 including the District of Columbia, although it is not entitled to have any member in the Senate or the House of Representatives. A simple majority of 538 electoral vote total (270) is needed to win the Presidency.

The electors automatically vote for their party’s nominee since no elector dare break faith with the party which nominated him, and the work of the electoral college is a final formality before the successful candidate becomes the constitutionally elected President. In this way, the deliberative, judicial, non-partisan system designed by the framers of the Constitution has been overthrown by political custom.

If no candidate for the Presidency receives the necessary electoral majority on election day, the issue is thrown for decision into the House of Representatives. There, each State, irrespective of its population and size, casts vote for one of the three men who earlier had received the maximum electoral votes in the elections. There have been only three occasions in the American history in 1800, 1824, and 1876 elections, when the State wise voting in the House of Representatives has decided the Presidential election.

The precise practice as it prevails today, may, thus, be summed up: the first stage to the Presidency is the selection of delegates to the national convention of the political parties. In most States, delegates are selected by the parties at their State conventions. But in 15 States they are chosen by the voters at primary elections usually in March, April and May of the year preceding the Presidential election.

The second stage comprises holding the convention when the party selects its candidates for President and Vice-President, and adopts a program of objectives. In first week of September starts the election campaign and the candidates for Presidency and Vice-Presidency selected by their parties crisscross the nation, explaining their positions on key issues, domestic and international.

By train, plane, bus and car they travel to nearly every State. They make hundreds of public appearances, and scores of speeches from platforms, over radio stations, and before television Cameras. As many as 20 speeches may be given in a day.

Then, comes the polling day for the election of the electors early in November (on Tuesday following the first Monday in November). It is a legal holiday in most States. In other states, employees are given time off so that they may vote conveniently. The polling stations open as early as 6 in the morning for 12 hours or more.

The ballot is direct and secret. Individual votes are counted State by State and by custom the presidential candidate receiving the most votes within a State is declared the winner of the State’s electoral votes. The result is known in a few hours after the election is over. Once the outcome is clear, it is customary for the defeated candidate to make a concession speech thanking his sup porters for their efforts and congratulating his opponent on the victory.

The formal balloting for President takes place long after polling day through the machinery of the Electoral College. The practice now is  for the Electors to vote for the candidate who carried their State in the November Presidential election. The Electoral College does not actually meet. The various state groups of electors assemble at their respective State capitals, as required by the national law of 1934, on the Monday following the second Wednesday in December after their November election to vote for President and Vice-President. The votes of the State electoral groups are sent to the President of the Senate, opened and counted before a joint session of Congress on January 6, and formal announcement of the result of the election made. The new President is inaugurated at noon on January 20 to run a four-year term of office.

Since 1797, when Representative William L. Smith introduced the first proposed Constitutional Amendment for reform of the Electoral College, hardly a session of Congress has passed without the introduction of one or more resolutions on the subject. Presidents from Jefferson to Jimmy Carter have suggested changes. But only one the 12th Amendment ratified in 1804 has been approved. The 23rd Amendment, ratified in 1961, gave three electoral votes to the District of Columbia, but that does not basically change the system.

Modem critics, for example, the American Bar Association, have described the Electoral College as archaic, complex, indirect and dangerous. Public interest in change has been spurred by the close elections of 1960, 1968 and 1976. In the most recent of these, a shift of fewer than 10,000 votes in Ohio and Hawaii from Carter to Ford would have elected Ford despite his 107 million deficit in the popular vote, The direct vote plan, whose principal sponsor was Democratic Senator Birch Bayh, attracted the most attention, but was defeated in the Senate in July, 1979.

Under his plan, the President was to be elected by a direct popular vote on a nationwide basis. If no candidate received at least 40 per cent of the votes, there would have been a runoff between the top two candidates.

In the final analysis, no one is really certain of the impact of abolition of the Electoral College of the American political system. For this reason, passage of any future amendments and their ultimate ratification by the States are dubious. Both Congress and the States will be wary of change. A witness, Eddie N.Williams, in his testimony in 1977, stated the matter succinctly. There is no conclusive evidence of the effect such proposals would, or would not have.

Removal from Office:-

Removal from office of a President is by impeachment and only for treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors. No President has ever been so removed. President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment failed by one vote. The House of Representatives has the power to initiate Impeachment proceedings by a majority vote. The case is tried by the Senate with the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presiding. It requires two-thirds vote for conviction, which makes the President liable to removal from office and disqualification. He is also liable to trial under ordinary judicial procedure.