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The Role of the Executive Branch of Government

Updated on February 13, 2013
The White House, the residence and office of the President of the United States.
The White House, the residence and office of the President of the United States. | Source

By Joan Whetzel

The first three articles of the US Constitution set up the structures of the branches of government. Article II describes the makeup of the Executive Branch, its role in the Government and foreign relations, authority over the armed forces, and its role in the lawmaking process.

What Is the Executive Branch of the US Government?

Article II of the Constitution appoints the President of the United States as the head of the Executive Branch and authorizes the him or her to ask for advice from the Executive Department heads – known as the Cabinet. The Article also sets the a 4 year limit for one term in office for the President. The President is vested with the power of the Executive Branch and is proscribed with the authority over the Armed Forces. The Vice President is set up as second in line of command, to take over should the President die or leave office for any reason. The Cabinet acts as an advisory committee to help the President make decisions in all affairs, both foreign and domestic. The Constitution makes a separation of powers between the three branches of government. The Congress (the Legislative Branch) passes the laws, the Judicial Branch (in the form of the Supreme Court) rules on the constitutionality of all laws that have been passed, and the Executive Branch is charged with enforcing the laws.

Role of The President

The US Constitution lists the qualifications for anyone to serve as President of the US. The President must be at least 35 years of age, a natural born citizen of the US, and must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years of his or her life and the office has a list of jobs to go with it. The President:

  1. is head of state and Commander in Chief of the armed Forces.
  2. is responsible for executing and enforcement of laws enacted by Congress.
  3. takes counsel from the Cabinet.
  4. appoints the heads of Federal commissions (e.g. the Federal Reserve Board and the S.E.C.), Federal judges, and ambassadors.
  5. signs legislation passed by the Congress or exercises his or her right to veto those bills passed by Congress.
  6. conducts diplomatic duties with other nations.
  7. negotiates and signs treaties.
  8. issues executive orders.
  9. grants pardons for federal crimes, with the exception of impeachment.
  10. provides a “state of the union” address to a joint session of Congress once a year (with the exception of inaugural years) to fill them in on the agenda for the upcoming year.
  11. is elected every four years by a majority vote from the electoral college.
  12. lives with the First Family in the White House in Washington DC.

The Vice President

The Vice President belongs to the same political party as the President, runs on the same ticket as

the President during the election process, and is automatically elected with the President. As second in command, the Vice President:

  1. must be ready to assume the Presidency should the current President die, be incapacitated, or leave office for any reason.
  2. serves as the head of the Senate and casts the deciding vote in case of a tie.
  3. has an office in the West Wing of the White House during working hours.
  4. lives with his or her family at the official living quarters in the United States Naval Observatory in Washington DC.

The Cabinet

The Cabinet acts as an advisory committee to the President. The Cabinet is made up of the heads of 15 Federal department who are all appointed by the President and must be confirmed by the Senate. The members of the Cabinet not only advise the President they make up the line of succession to the Presidency after the Vice President and the Speak of the House of Representatives.


The White House. The Executive Branch.

Wikipedia. Executive (government). Constitutional Role of the Executive Branch.

Reid, Stephanie. Houston Chronicle. "What Are the Duties of the Executive Branch?"

The Executive Branch

Government Made Easy: The Executive Branch


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