Presidential powers explained

By Laura Van De Pette
September 23, 2005

Dr. James Hedtke, professor of history and political science, quoted John F. Kennedy saying, “As president, I have extraordinary powers but I have to exercise them under extraordinary restraint.”

The lecture on presidential power and the Constitution was held in Grace Hall on Thursday, Sept. 15 and was packed to maximum capacity with students of all majors as well as faculty members. Lectures like this are now mandated by federal law to be held by all schools, universities, and federal agencies as a means to commemorate Constitution day, Sept. 17.

Hedtke explained the most influential delegates were Pennsylvania’s delegates, James Wilson and Governor Morris. Virginian delegate, James Madison and New York delegate, Alex Hamilton were also among the biggest players in writing Article II of the Constitution.

Dr. Hedtke continued to explain that Article II at the time of its conception was about the power of George Washington. The president is allowed to grant pardons and reprieves. There have been some famous cases of pardons throughout history like when President Gerald Ford pardoned President Richard Nixon.

Another power of the president which is often misunderstood is the power of the president to veto a bill. Although a vetoed bill can be overridden if not approved by two-thirds majority vote by the senate, 94 percent of all vetoed bills in history have remained vetoed.

The president has the power to appoint heads and the power to fire heads that are not tenured. Dr. Hedtke said, “The president can fire and appoint on his whim and fancy.”

The president has the power to make treaties but often chooses to make executive agreements with heads of states instead. The president does this because Congress must approve all treaties and in an executive agreement Congress has no formal role. Hedtke said, “The president has control in an executive agreement but the agreement does need to be presented and signed by Congress.”

An important power of the president is the power to make war. This power is especially relevant to today’s War in Iraq. Although the president has the power to make war only Congress has the power to declare war. When a president is considering entering warfare, he must consider whether or not Congress will pay and maintain the war and most importantly will Americans support the decision to enter war, at least in the beginning.

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Laura Van De Pette

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