The US government is tripartite and its branches perform the important role of performing checks and balances on one another to as a way of preventing any of the branches from overstepping its mandate.
For instance, the limits to presidential powers include a political culture that has as one of its characteristics features a distrust of government and an array of congressional checks on presidential authority, including the power to approve presidential appointments, the laws that the president wishes to approve and the budget to the executive departments. This essay will examine the congressional powers in relation to checking on the presidency.
The Congress has powers to check on the presidency in different aspects one of which is checking on the budgetary allocations by the executive. The creation of a budget requires integrity given the large amounts of cash involved and as such, the Congress ensures that the budget drafting process by the executive is both transparent and appropriate.
The Congress performs this role by debating and approving or rejecting budgets depending on their perceptions of the budgetary allocations (Gitelson, Dubley and Dubnick 60). The president can only recommend a budget for congressional consideration but the actual appropriation of funds lies in the hands of the Senate and House of Representatives.
The Congress can also challenge the treaties signed by the president is Congress feel that it is inappropriate. This issue has however attracted much debate centered on whether the president should have the final word on approving or discarding treaties.
As noted by Gunter (354), these debates arrived at the conclusion that the president is not the only one affected by the treaties as an individual and as such, granting the presidency the last word on treaties would be according it too much power as an individual, is not the one actually affected by these treaties on the ground and as such, the president should not be the only one to decide the fate of treaties.
Even though Congress lacks the force of law, there are numerous ways by which it can exact restrictions on a military operation, including the denial of Congressional authorization, disapproving resolutions and specific reporting requirements. These restrictions provide the Congress with opportunities to signal its opposition or the limits of its support and to impose political costs on the president and his senior advisors for pursuing intervention policies that deviate from Congressional preferences.
For example, Congress may threaten to vote on War Powers question, or through complaints about the absence of prior consultation, insistence on extensive consultation, on-the-record votes for disapproval, funding restrictions imposed through budgetary processes, or calls for exit strategies which may seek to influence the mission, force levels, conduct, or duration of a military operation.
A good example of how Congress can control the executive’s use of the military was illustrated by the 1982 Congress’ move to block the administrations aims in Central America, and with the Boland Amendments, prohibited the CIA and the Department of Defense from furnishing any military equipment, training, or support to anyone to overthrow the government of Nicaragua (Ehrman and Flamm 140 ). Notably, the Congressional checks on the presidency were able to keep combat troops out of Central America.
The constitution give the president veto powers which allow the president to reject the legislative actions of Congress but the Congress, through a two thirds majority vote in both house chambers can override the president’s veto powers. There are numerous other ways by which Congress can limit presidential powers given that the constitution requires of the president to seek approval from Congress before engaging in any official course of action.
In the recent decades however, Congress has in many instances allowed the executive flexibility in many areas, and in the recent years, presidents have used their executive powers to gain control over government agencies to counter Congressional constraints.
The ultimate restraint on the presidential and judicial authorities resides with the Congress’ power to remove any public official, including the president from office (Heath 22). This can be done though setting up impeachments, which are formal charges against the said official.
Once impeached, the public official is undergoes a trial by the senate which if finds him or her guilty, the official will have no choice but to vacate office. Examples of US presidents who were impeached by Congress include President Johnson in 1868 and most recently, President Clinton in 1998.
Yet another way in which Congress checks on presidential powers is through its powers to confirm or reject presidential nominees for executive and judicial positions. Before assuming office, the senate has to debate the nominated candidates and based on the votes, a candidate may either be approved or rejected.
The constitution gives government authority to the government’s three branches each with its specific roles concerning the running of day to day governmental duties. Each branch is governed by a checks and balances system that ensures that all the three branches cooperate in making important decisions. This essay has explored various ways by which Congress checks on the executive.
Ehrman, John and Flamm, Michael. Debating the Reagan presidency. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2009.
Gunter, Gerald. Constitutional law. New York: Foundation Press, 1991.
Gitelson, Allan, Dudley Robert and Dubnick. Melvin American Government: Student Choice Edition. California: Good Cengage Learning, 2008.
Heath, David. The Congress of the United States. Mankato, MN: Capstone Press.