What Are the Primary Responsibilities of the Executive Branch?

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    Enforcement and Execution of Laws Passed by Congress

    • The president is responsible for enforcing and executing all the laws that the United States Congress passes. There are fifteen executive departments, whose heads are all appointed by the president, that are responsible for the day to day enforcement and administration of the federal laws which have been passed by Congress. These department secretaries also have the job of clarifying federal laws for the presidents benefit. In enforcing U.S. Federal laws, the president also has the authority to issue executive orders which clarify or expand on a piece of legislation.

    Signing Legislation into Law and Vetoing Bills

    • The president of the United States has the authority to sign legislation that has been passed by Congress into law or to veto it if it does not satisfy him in some way. However, a presidential veto of a Congressional bill can be overridden if Congress votes with a two-thirds majority to nullify it and pass the legislation anyway.

    Diplomacy with Other Countries and Negotiation of Treaties

    • All diplomatic relations with foreign states, as well as all treaty negotiations, fall under the authority of the executive branch. However, if the president should sign a treaty with a foreign country, it has to also be ratified by congress with a two-thirds vote. Through his foreign relations duties, the president is also responsible for the appointment of all ambassadors to other countries.

    Signing Pardons and Offering Clemency for Federal Crimes

    • The U.S. president is allowed by the constitution the authority to grant full and complete pardons and clemency to any person convicted of a federal crime in the United States. The only exception to this rule applies in cases of impeachment for misconduct of officers of the Federal Government.

    Appointment of Cabinet Secretaries and Federal Officials

    • The authority to appoint the secretaries of all 15 cabinet level federal departments, as well as the authority to appoint the heads of 50 different federal commissions, such as the Federal Reserve Board, the Securities and Exchange Commission or the Food and Drug Administration, lies with the president. The executive branch is also under constitutional authority to appoint federal judges, such as the members of the Supreme Court, with consent from the United States Senate.

    Updating Congress as to the State of the Union

    • Under section 2 of the United States Constitution, the president is required to give an update on the state of the union, meaning the union of the United States, to Congress. According to the Constitution, this responsibility is to be carried out from time to time, meaning that although no specific frequency is given, it would be necessary at least once during a presidential term. During his or her state of the union address, the president is also required to give recommendations as to how the performance of the Federal Government could be better improved.

    Supreme Command over the Armed Forces

    • The executive branch of the Federal Government has supreme authority over all United States Armed Forces. The Constitution declares the president to be the Commander in Chief of the Army, Navy and all federal militias. Presidential authority extends to the firing and appointment of senior military staff.

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