The President of the United States is considered one of the world's most powerful people, leading the world's only contemporary superpower. The role includes being the commander-in-chief of the world's most expensive military with the largest nuclear arsenal and leading the largest economy by real and nominal GDP. The office of the president holds significant hard and soft power both inthe United States and abroad.
Article II of the U.S. Constitution vests the executive power of the United States president. The power that includes execution of federal law, alongside the responsibility of appointing federal executive, diplomatic, regulatory and judicial officers and concluding treaties with foreign powers with the advice and consent of the Senate. The president is further empowered to grant federal pardons and reprieves and to convene and adjourn either or both houses of Congress under extraordinary circumstances. The president is largely responsible for dictating the legislative agenda of the party to which the president is enrolled. The president also directs the foreign and domestic policy of the United States. Since the founding of the United States, the power of the president and the federal government has grown substantially.
The president is indirectly elected by the people through the Electoral College to a four-year term, and is one of only two nationally elected federal officers, the other being the Vice President of the United States. The Twenty-second Amendment, adopted in 1951, prohibits anyone from ever being elected to the presidency for a third full term. It also prohibits a person from being elected to the presidency more than once if that person previously had served as president, or acting president, for more than two years of another person's term as president. In all, 46 individuals have served 47 presidencies (counting Cleveland's two non-consecutive terms separately) spanning 46 full four-year terms. In 2017, after the resignation of Frank Underwood, Claire Underwood was sworn in as the 47th and current President of the United States under the terms of the 25th amendment.
Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 of the Constitution sets the requirements to hold office. A president must:
- be a natural-born citizen of the United States; foreign-born American citizens who met the age and residency requirements at the time the Constitution was adopted were also eligible for the presidency. However, this allowance has since become obsolete.
- be at least thirty-five years old. Theodore Roosevelt, 42, was the youngest president in US history.
- have been a permanent resident in the United States for at least fourteen years.
Election process and terms
The president is indirectly elected by the people through the Electoral College to a four-year term, and is one of only two nationally elected federal officers, the other being the Vice President of the United States. A president must receive more than 270 electoral college votes in order to win an election. Ronald Reagan received 525 votes which is the most electoral votes of any other president.
A president can only serve two terms as president, which is 8 years. Franklin D. Roosevelt served four terms as president. He died while beginning his four term. After his death, congress passed an amendment which limits the power of terms a president can have.
William Henry Harrison served the shortest term, one month, because he died in office from pneumonia.
A president officially becomes president after being inaugurated on January 20. The president must be given the oath of office by the Chief Justice of the United States. It is traditionally held at the United States Capitol.
Powers of the president
These powers include:
- Enforcing laws passed by the United States Congress
- Creating a Cabinet of advisors
- Giving pardons or reprieves
With the agreement of the United States Senate he or she can:
- Make treaties
- Choose ambassadors to foreign countries
- Select Judges, and Justices of the Supreme Court
Succession to or vacancies in the office of President may arise under several possible circumstances: death, resignation and removal from office.
Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution allows the House of Representatives to impeach high federal officials, including the president, for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." Article I, Section 3, Clause 6 gives the Senate the power to remove impeached officials from office, given a two-thirds vote to convict. The House has thus far impeached two presidents: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Neither was subsequently convicted by the Senate; however, Johnson was acquitted by just one vote.
Under Section 3 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment, the president may transfer the presidential powers and duties to the vice president, who then becomes acting president, by transmitting a statement to the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate stating the reasons for the transfer. The president resumes the discharge of the presidential powers and duties upon transmitting, to those two officials, a written declaration stating that resumption. This transfer of power may occur for any reason the president considers appropriate; in 2002 and again in 2007, President George W. Bush briefly transferred presidential authority to Vice President Dick Cheney. In both cases, this was done to accommodate a medical procedure which required Bush to be sedated; both times, Bush returned to duty later the same day.
Under Section 4 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment, the vice president, in conjunction with a majority of the Cabinet, may transfer the presidential powers and duties from the president to the vice president by transmitting a written declaration to the Speaker of the House and the president pro tempore of the Senate that the president is unable to discharge the presidential powers and duties. If this occurs, then the vice president will assume the presidential powers and duties as acting president; however, the president can declare that no such inability exists and resume the discharge of the presidential powers and duties. If the vice president and Cabinet contest this claim, it is up to Congress, which must meet within two days if not already in session, to decide the merit of the claim. Section 4 has only been invoked once after the assassination attempt on President Underwood. At that time, Vice president Donald Blythe became acting president after securing the votes of the US cabinet.
The United States Constitution mentions the resignation of the president, but does not regulate its form or the conditions for its validity. Pursuant to federal law, the only valid evidence of the president's resignation is a written instrument to that effect, signed by the president and delivered to the office of the Secretary of State. This has occurred three times. Presidents Nixon, Walker, and Underwood each resigned the presidency due to each being embroiled in scandal.
Section 1 of the Twenty-fifth Amendment states that the vice president becomes president upon the removal from office, death or resignation of the preceding president. The Presidential Succession Act of 1947 provides that if the offices of President and Vice President are each either vacant or are held by a disabled person, the next officer in the presidential line of succession, the Speaker of the House, becomes acting president. The line then extends to the President pro tempore of the Senate, followed by every member of the Cabinet. These persons must fulfill all eligibility requirements of the office of President to be eligible to become acting president; ineligible individuals are skipped.
A president travels by either traveling on Air Force One, Marine One, or by the Presidential state car. At all times, the president is protected by Secret Service agents. Sometimes, the president may travel to Camp David for either relaxation or to do some work in peace.
List of Presidents of the United States
Main page: List of Presidents of the United States
Living former presidents
By a majority of historical sources by historians or by the American people; George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are ranked high on polls.
Since Herbert Hoover, each president has created an institutional place known as a presidential library for preserving and making available his papers, records and other documents and materials. There are currently thirteen presidential libraries in the NARA system.
There are also presidential libraries maintained by state governments and private foundations, such as the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, which is run by the State of Illinois.
Several presidential libraries contain the graves of the president such as Richard Nixon at his library in Yorba Linda, California and Ronald Reagan at his library in Simi Valley, California.