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Political Lingo: Executive Branch

It’s Me!



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“BO knows this and BO knows that…” and he also knows everything about doing his job and professionally checking his colleagues on behalf of the people. Way to go BO!

In a press conference earlier today to acknowledge the “re-opening” of our government, President Obama was clear and adamant in stating there were “no winners” in an “unnecessary” shutdown to our government. He also characterized the actions of [some members of] Congress as undermining to our economy.

I, like you, have read comments in which people, ignorant of the roles of the branches of government, have rendered that President Obama was responsible for the shutdown because he did nothing to stop it. Since the aforementioned philosophy lacks understanding let’s work to understand the role, duties and responsibilities of the Executive Branch of government together!

Article II of the US Constitution specifically speaks to the Executive Branch and specifically to the Office of the President. In doing so, the Constitution states that a President must be at least 35 years old, have a minimum of 14 years residency in the United States, and be a natural-born citizen (remember those “Birthers’ claims about President Obama?).

The Executive Branch of government includes President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, all 15 Secretaries of the various departments in our government, and various other important offices.  These people work with President Obama in his Cabinet, or advisors, and within this Administration (the people working for the White House during President Obama’s terms as President).

Although the Cabinet is not officially mandated by the Constitution, it remains a viable part of the unwritten Constitution (actions that are followed but are not in the Constitution)—George Washington was the first President to use a Cabinet which included 4 people. President George W. Bush expanded the Cabinet following 9/11 with the Department of Homeland Security.

Department Secretaries

  1. Department of State
    Secretary John Kerry
  2. Department of the Treasury
    Secretary Jack Lew
  3. Department of Defense
    Secretary Chuck Hagel
  4. Department of Justice
    Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr.
  5. Department of the Interior
    Secretary Sally Jewell
  6. Department of Agriculture
    Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack
  7. Department of Commerce
    Secretary Penny Pritzker
  8. Department of Labor
    Secretary Thomas E. Perez
  9. Department of Health and Human Services
    Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
  10. Department of Housing and Urban Development
    Secretary Shaun L.S. Donovan
  11. Department of Transportation
    Secretary Anthony Foxx
  12. Department of Energy
    Secretary Ernest Moniz
  13. Department of Education
    Secretary Arne Duncan
  14. Department of Veterans Affairs
    Secretary Eric K. Shinseki
  15. Department of Homeland Security
    Acting Secretary Rand Beers

Additional Members

  1. White House Chief of Staff
    Denis McDonough
  2. Environmental Protection Agency
    Administrator Gina McCarthy
  3. Office of Management & Budget
    Director Sylvia Burwell
  4. United States Trade Representative
    Ambassador Michael Froman
  5. United States Mission to the United Nations
    Ambassador Samantha Power
  6. Council of Economic Advisers
    Chairman Jason Furman
  7. Small Business Administration
    Acting Administrator Jeanne Hulit

The primary function of the Executive Branch of government is enforcing the law.  Beyond that role, however, the Executive has the following powers:

  • Act as the Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces and the National Guard.
  • Maintain a Cabinet of advisors who the run the various departments mentioned above.
  • Grant pardons in all federal criminal offenses and postpone punishments like executions
  • Negotiate treaties with other countries
  • Appoint ambassadors, Supreme Court Justices, federal court judges, and Cabinet members
  • Deliver State of the Union Addresses to Congress
  • Represent America when dealing with foreign countries

Although many Presidents of the past have used their executive privilege (power that only the President has) to enforce *Executive Orders (actions that have been taken by Presidents to enact immediate action without seeking the approval Congress), it is simply not the duty of the President to make laws or to pass spending bills.

In President Obama’s address today, he sent a rather pertinent and challenging message to the Congressional Republicans: “You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election…”

Winning an election? BO knows that!

*The Emancipation Proclamation and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) are both Executive Orders

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