President V. Prime Minister
Prime minister: chosen by and responsible to the parliament
France combines directly elected president with a prime minister
Prime minister selects other members of cabinet from Parliament
Presidents are generally perceived as more powerful internationally because PM must check with parliament.
Definition: one party controls house, one controls senate. As opposed to unified government.
American pundits claim average joe doesn't like divided government.
Does divided government produce fewer or worse policy?
Scholars conclude divided and unified do about the same.
Main reason? Unified government is a bit of a myth.
Thus unified government really only exists when both bodies have same ideological wing.
Is gridlock bad?
In a typical election, about 25% of voters will vote for different party for each body
Gridlock is a necessary consequence of representative democracy
Gridlock is less important than relative power of congress and the president
We have more divided government as of late because
We have fewer people identifying with parties
Thus we have split-ticked votes
Limits of Presidential Power
Fears of Randolph
President may abuse power of pardon
Veto power means president is as powerful as 2/3 of congress
Fears of the founders
President might use state militias to overpower state governments
If president had to share treaty-making power with senate, he would become its tool
Biggest fear: president would use illegal means to perpetually gain reelection (would happen often if election was thrown to house of representatives)
Electoral college limits the president by
Real sources of expansion of power
Presidents role in foreign affairs
Ability to shape public opinion
Position as head of executive branch
Claim of "inherent powers"
Limits on the president
The electoral college: each state could select electors in whatever manner it wished. Figured that most states would select a personal favorite; no one would get majority; thus house of reps would decide. Framers didn't see the role of political parties.
The Term of Office: Washington said he would only run for two; none until roosevelt tried for more. 22nd amendment said presidents could only have two terms.
CW: Republicans didn’t like the perpetual winning of Democrats, so limit was a republican-led effort. Historical problem: 22nd didn’t get off the ground until the following congress, which was democrat. Thus it actually was the democrats that passed it.
Presidential precedent: Working with congress to get plans passed.
The Reemergence of congress: Congress is leading institution in antebellum years (hence no-name presidents). Very partisan. Lincoln really expanded Article II's implied/inherent powers.
Powers of the President
Presidents have used "faithfully executed" to do a great deal: Cleveland breaking labor strikes, Eisenhower and federal troops/ forced integration in little rock
Greatest source of power: public opinion
Ways to structure the White House
Power is wielded by those who are close
West wing assistants: hired and fired by president at will (no confirmation) -- essentially workers. Currently about 500
Types of structures:
Pyramid structure (Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan, Bush) : most assistance report through staff hierarchy
Orderly flow of info
PRESIDENT CAN MAINTAIN PRIORITIES
Does so at risk of misinforming or illinforming president
Circular structure (Carter) : all report directly to president
Great deal of info at the price of confusion
Ad hoc structure (Clinton) : task forces, committees, and informal groups deal directly with president
Greatest flexibility at the risk of isolating president from people who actually do the implementation
Presidents frequently mix methods
Executive offices of the president:
Report directly to the president but are not located in the White House itself
Appointments must be confirmed by senate
OMB is most important
Heads of federal departments.
Approved by senate; president has limited power over them.
He can't really control who they employ
Members are heads of vast organizations that they seek to control
Departments: State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veterans affairs
Who gets appointed
A president is fortunate if most cabinet members agree with him on policy
People usually have prior federal experience
Many are "in-and-outers" -- alternate between federal service and private
Presidents as of late have been placing people known for their expertise -- look at number of Ph. D.'s
Audience: persons that need to be persuaded or supported
The three audiences
Washington DC audience of fellow politicians and leaders
Party office holders and activists outside Washington
The Public -- everybody else
The object is to convert personal popularity into legislative support for proposals
President's popularity doesn't really help congressmen that much
Politicians tend to rise and fall together
Factors in popularity
Veto power and privilege
Veto message: president sends message to congress within 10 days of the bill passing saying he isn't going to sign it. He must give reasons for the veto. It goes back to the chamber where it originated.
Can be overridden by a 2/3 majority of a quorum.
Only really 34 senators.
Main reason: one more thing to slow the legislative notion – every law is inherently an infringement on liberty
Pocket veto: president doesn't sign it within 10 days and congress has ajourned in that time; bill doesn't become law.
If bill is not signed within 10 days, it becomes law automatically
Veto power is substantial because congress rarely has the votes to override it.
President might veto on personal, political, constitutional grounds
Based upon: separation of powers; need for candid information
Supreme court held (with Nixon issue) that there is no "absolute unqualified presidential privilege of immunity from judicial process under all circumstances."
Impoundment of Funds
President refuses to spend money allocated by congress
Budget reform act of 1974 – president must spend money, or if he doesn’t want to, must tell congress
President must faithfully execute the laws –
"congress wasn’t intelligent enough to make that argument"
President relies on _____ when making a program
Interest groups – develop proposal that gets local groups invigorated so that movement looks like grass roots.
Federal bureaus and agencies – propose plans that would help promote their own government agency
Outside experts – knowledge of experts
Constraints on the president
Fundamental change does not occur in large republics
The federal individuals are more moderate, because they have to compromise a great number of faction
Thus local individuals are able to be more ideological, and get more accomplished.
Reorganization as a tool for change
Can help for minor agenda item
Often more symbolic
The Vice President
Position is only important when the president dies; resigns
VP’s only action is to vote in case of a tie; only gives bill an additional chance to pass
VP has become more important over time
The vice president can, on his or her own whim, become acting president, as long as president doesn’t disagree. If the president does disagree, then cabinet takes a vote. If president takes issue with the cabinet’s vote, then it goes to congress.
1998-1999 AP American Government Notes
This material copyright Eric Jonas, 1999.
These notes have been taken from American Government, 7th edition, by Wilson and DiIulio, and from in-class lecture by Mr. Greg Sandmeyer at Timberline High School.