Government and Politics
Week 8: The Presidency and the
Lecture 3: President,
Rule-Making, and the Budget
Foundation and growth of President's rule-making
- The constitution provides the president with
legislative powers under two categories
- approving legislation: signing or vetoing
- suggesting legislation to Congress.
- The Constitution is more explicit on the president's
role in approving legislation:
- In 75 years prior to President Andrew Johnson's
administration after the Civil War, presidents had
used their veto powers only 59 times.
- In the next 80 years, through FDR, presidents
exercised 1,710 vetoes
- 584 by Cleveland alone
- 635 by Roosevelt
- In the 50 years from Roosevelt to Bush, the veto
was used about 750 times
- 200 by Truman
- 181 by Eisenhower
- 78 by Reagan, who had only 9 overridden
- 46 by Bush, who had only 1 overridden--when
Congress enacted cable television reregulation
- Bill Clinton was the first president since 1853
(Millard Fillmore) who failed to veto a single bill
during an entire Congress, 1993-94.
- But in 1995, under the Republican Congress
- Clinton vetoed 11 pieces of legislation
- Only one, a bill to limit lawsuits by
shareholders claiming social security fraud, was
passed over his veto.
- As a result of the impass between the president
and congress, only 88 bills were passed in 1995--the
lowest total since 1933.
- He vetoed 6 more bills in 1996
- His 17 vetoes were the lowest in a full term
- Less than half of the 46 by Bush
- But 245 bills were enacted in 1996, compared with
88 in 1995
- The Constitution is indirect on the president's role
in suggesting legislation:
- Article II, Section 3 states that the president
- "shall from time to time give to the Congress
information on the State of the Union,
- and recommend to their consideration such
measures as he shall judge necessary and
- Presidents have interpreted "time to time" as
meaning that they should instruct the Congress
annually on "the State of the Union"
- Congress itself has expanded the president's role in
- Mr. President, please prepare the budget!
- Prior to the 1920s, the Congress prepared its
own budget, but badly.
- The Budgeting and Accounting Act of 1921
required that the president prepare the nation's
- It also required the president to deliver an
annual Budget Message.
- This message has become the vehicle for most
specific legislative requests
- The president's duty to prepare and submit a
budget to Congress is only based in
- Congress could take upon itself the
responsibility of preparing a budget at any
- When Congress is controlled by the opposition
party, the president's budget is often reworked
extensively by Congress.
- Mr. President, please take charge of the
- The Employment Act of 1946 required that the
president review the state of the economy,
including the current and foreseeable trends in the
- production, and
- purchasing power
- The 1946 Act also required the president to
deliver an annual Economic Report to the
- Mr. President, please strike out wasteful
expenditures that we placed in your budget!
- A 1996 act gave the president the line-item
veto on budget items.
- It's truly ironic that Congress surrendered
this power to a willing president.
- President's acceptance of role to initiate
- Increased use of the Office of Management and
Budget to prepare a legislative program
- Congress now not only expects the president to
suggest legislation but awaits for his specific
proposals in the form of a legislative
Lessons in the growth of presidential power
- For much of our history, Congress has not only
acquiesced in the growth of the powers of the presidency,
but Congress has actually granted powers to the
- Because institutional rivalry is at the heart of
our system of separated powers, one might expect that
Congress would jealously guard its power--and it
- But sometime, Congress consciously grants power to
- 1921 Budget message
- 1946 Economic Report
- 1996 Line-item veto
- Congress may also unwittingly increase powers of the
- This would be the effect of term limits.
- Ironically, the Contract with America's proposed
constitutional amendment requiring the president to
submit a balanced budget would also increase the
- At present, the president's authority to
prepare the budget exists only in legislation.
- The budget amendment would require the
president to prepare a balanced budget--thus
conferring a new presidential power.
- Congress could not take this power from the
president, as it can now.
How much power does the president actually have in the
- The president cannot submit legislation to Congress,
but must have someone introduce it for him.
- Obviously, the president has an interest in
legislation introduced on his behalf.
- He also has an interest in other legislation
introduced in Congress.
- How much support does Congress provide to presidents
when they take positions on bills?
- Since the early 1950s, Congressional Quarterly has
assessed congressional voting on bills on which there
was a clear presidential position.
- In general, presidents are supported more
frequently by members of their own party (about 2/3 of
the time) than by members of the opposition (less than
half the time).
- What factors account for differences in presidential
- THE CHALLENGE OF DEMOCRACY contends that the
president's power is the power to persuade.
- This suggests that success with the congress
varies with presidential popularity.
- Presidents today are affected by outside events,
but they can try to influence popularity through
television addresses at formal and informal