Our Nation’s Foundations – Lesson Eleven: Executive Branch

by Oletta Branstiter


Executive Branch

Place this information about the Executive Branch in the remaining third of the roof of your graphic.

The Executive Branch consists of the President, Vice President, and 15 Cabinet-level executive departments: Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs. Most of these departments are not mentioned in the Constitution.

This branch of government is defined in Article II of the Constitution. It also describes how the President is elected through an electoral process, which provides a balance of power between the popular and state votes. Voters are actually authorizing electors to vote for President. 

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress

The President

The President should be a statesman or stateswoman, meaning that he or she should be able to express ideas and thoughts in a respectful but compelling way that reveals an understanding of our Constitution and a willingness and ability to fulfill the oath of office. Article VI, Section 3 of the Constitution declares:

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

Responsibilities

While a President may have his or her own strong ideas about how the nation should be managed, the office has no more power than the other two branches of government. His or her job is to faithfully execute the laws passed by Congress. The President may veto or approve those laws. 

According to our Constitution, the President is NOT allowed to make or change laws without Congressional approval. Treaties with other countries and declarations of war must be approved by both houses of Congress, as well.

The President must regularly inform members of the Congress of the State of the Union – how we’re doing, good or bad. He or she serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, that is, he or she gives authority to carry out acts of war or defense.

Accountability

The President can be impeached – fired – if a majority of Representatives in Congress declare him or her to be unfit for the office. He or she must be convicted on the grounds of “Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors”, as defined by the House Judicial Committee.

Two Presidents have been impeached by Congress in our nation’s history: Andrew Johnson, because many determined that he was not doing all he could to protect the Constitutional rights of former slaves; and Bill Clinton, for lying to Congress about personal misconduct. Neither President was removed from office, which requires a majority vote from the Senate.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected four times in a row. In 1947, Congress passed the 22nd Amendment, limiting Presidents to two consecutive four-year terms. It was ratified by the required number of the forty-eight states in 1951.

Conclusion

After displaying the layers of Bedrock, Rule of Law, Pillars of Principle and Equal but Separate Branches of Government, our graphic is complete. It looks like a sturdy federal building. Presidents, Congressmen, and Senators will come and go. It’s the responsibility of citizens like you and me to keep it in good repair by holding all of our representatives accountable to their oath of office: “to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

 

See all the lessons in this series here.

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