Relations between U.S. Congress and the U.S. Presidency


By the end of the 20th century the phenomenon of ‘divided government’ was not regarded as a temporary phenomenon anymore and thus, it provoked a great interest to the problem of time balance of the executive and legislative branches of government efficiency given and adjusted by the Constitution (Greenberg & Page, 2015). The fact is that in the periods of ‘divided government’, the conflictual relationship of the President and Congress becomes the dominant feature of the US political process. The relations between U.S. Congress and the U.S. Presidency maintain their conflicting atmosphere but they have constant dynamics to find the optimal combination of stability and development, which is the essence of the effectiveness of the American political system. It is necessary to analyze the main features of the U.S. government, powers separation, how U.S. Congress and the U.S. President divide powers and collaborate.

The Main Features of the U.S. State System

The United States is a presidential republic, and the main features of the state system include combination of powers of the head of state and head of government in a top official – the President. The methods of electing the president and the formation of the government (the president appoints the heads of ministries) are non-parliamentary, and the President does not have the right to dismiss the highest legislative body, while Congress cannot take a vote of no confidence towards the government. Another feature is prohibiting members of the government to be members of Congress, and vice versa.

The illustrations that the basis for cooperation between all branches of power is the idea of ​​mutual control and balance of powers, which does not allow one branch to dominate the other one are, for example, that Congress may reject the President’s bill, and the President can veto it when it comes to the approval of the bill. In addition, many of the President’s powers are realized only with the approval of the Senate (international treaties), and the Supreme Court has the right to invalidate the laws of Congress and executive acts.

Separation of Powers

One of the fundamental constitutionalist principles is the separation of powers in the American political doctrine. The principle of the separation of powers is a necessary way to ensure such political-philosophical and legal principles as limited governing, federalism, and the rule of law. In this regard, one of the key problems of American constitutionalism is the practical application of the principle of separation of powers in the US political system. First, the question arises as to how ‘strong’ this separation is, which, in turn, determines the degree of structural and functional authorities’ separation.

In the USA, the simultaneous work of a politician in two branches of power is not allowed. In this sense, the division is truly strict and consistent, although in this case, it is unlikely to justify the importance attached to the doctrine as a whole. Therefore, the separation of powers is the functional separation of powers among the autonomous branches of government (Greenberg & Page, 2015).

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The reference to the absence of the constitutional right of legislative initiative in the President does not confirm the thesis of his functional separation from the legislative process. The US Constitution provides the right to the President to propose any action as it may be deemed necessary and useful to Congress. The US practice shows that the Presidents’ administration actively uses this provision for the presentation of specific bills in Congress. In addition, without the approval of the President, no bill passed by Congress can become a law (Greenberg & Page, 2015). The cases of overcoming the presidential veto are rare. Thus, the president is an integral part of the legislative process. Therefore, there is hardly any reason to speak of “strict” functional separation of powers in the United States.

Congress also is not a passive observer of the activities of the President on the implementation of laws. Congress can regulate some stages of President’s activities to decide on the approval of the officials who carry it out, to overcome a presidential veto by a qualified majority. The mentioned opportunities of the mutual influence of the executive and the legislature powers are determined by the constitutional principle of checks and balances, which should be considered apart from the constitutional principle of separation of powers.

The US presidents have always imagined the ideal relationship of the president and Congress not as ‘partitioning and separation’, but rather as close joint ventures. The principle of separation of powers would cause authorities competition and damaging public administration in general, resulting in periods of social and political crises, when the president and Congress acted as representatives of different groups of the ruling class.

The President-Congress Relation

Emergency Powers

Emergency powers of the President of the United States include the President of the Act on the national state of emergency. Proclamation of a state of emergency immediately transmits to Congress by the President. Congress has not been granted the right to approve the state of emergency. However, Congress may adopt a joint resolution on the termination of the state of emergency at any time. All the acts of the President, issued during the state of emergency, are the subjects to immediate submission to Congress.

 International Treaties

In foreign policy, the President signs international treaties, appoints ambassadors, consuls and other authorized representatives of foreign states and international organizations. However, not all the international instruments, which involve the United States, are considered to be agreements in the country, but only those that are directly related to the powers of Congress (Greenberg & Page, 2015). In the sphere of relations with Congress, the President has the right to convene one or both of its chambers at an extraordinary meeting. In case of disagreement in the time of adjournment of the meeting, the President makes the final decision. In addition, at the beginning of each session of Congress, the President sends the Economic and Budget Message to it. However, the US President as chief executive has the largest amount of authority. The President has the right to appoint the officials independently, without the “advice and consent of the Senate,”, if such a right is granted directly to him by law and if the vacancy occurs in the period between Congress sessions. All the powers of the President of the United States can be divided into the constitutional ones, the implied, and those delegated by Congress.


The decisions of the President on matters within his competence are in the form of legal acts. From a literal reading of the Constitution of the United States implies that the President has no right to lawmaking, except for the scope of the internal organization of the executive branch. It is the prerogative of Congress legislature. However, in practice, the lawmaking by the President is very active. The President is engaged in lawmaking based on the powers delegated to him by Congress. Congress has the right to publish any laws within the competence of the federation (the concept of implied powers).

The complexity of delegating rule-making sphere expands, and demands by Congress to the acts of delegated legislation become less certain. The varieties of acts of the President of the United States are, executive orders, reorganization plans and other acts – the rules, regulations, proclamations, military orders, and so on. Reorganization plans adopted by the Presidential acts include laws of the reorganization, which are regulating the organization and order of activity of bodies of executive power based on law, and often these plans include the right to modify the provisions legislation on these issues. Reorganization plans are subject to approval by Congress within 60 days (Greenberg & Page, 2015).


The USA has the separation of powers and the main instrument for its ensuring is the exclusive powers of each of the branches of government. Therefore, wrong thing in relations between U.S. Congress and the U.S. Presidency is different responsibilities, when one power can dominate over another in certain realms of activities and thus, create conflicting situation. Congress and the President are closely interconnected, but only Congress has the right to impose taxes, duties, excise taxes, and charge them; to dispose budgetary funds; to give cash loans; to introduce a uniform monetary system, to put paper and metal currency notes into circulation, set the rate of foreign currency. More Congress’ rights include providing the punishment for counterfeiting the documents and money; regulating trade relations and the naturalization of foreigners, procedures, and conditions of admission to the country or deportation abroad; fixing the standard of weights and measures; regulating postal services and declaring war. Congress has the exclusive right to impeach the President, Vice President and all senior officials of the Federal executive power. Furthermore, Congress alone has the right to terminate the membership of both Houses. The President obtains all executive power. The President has no political responsibility to anyone else, including Congress. Of course, the real political independence cannot be complete, since the activity is forced to reckon with the balance of power in society, in Congress, and in his party. In fact, the Constitution stipulates only a few of the exclusive rights of the President, which are the right to appoint senior civil servants, the right to negotiate with foreign states, and the right of pardon.

The complicated nature of the factors of the President and Congress confrontation leads to the fact that the relationship, while maintaining its conflicting atmosphere, is in constant dynamics in order to find the optimal combination of stability and development, which ultimately is the essence of the effectiveness of the American political system. Continually, the evolving American political system continues to change in the direction of ‘counter-diffusion’ of branches’ responsibilities. Executive branch actively participates in the legislative sphere, and Congress aggressively invades administration competencies. At the institutional level, there the natural complexity of government is evolving. Ratio of powers and authority of the President and Congress in fact for nearly half of a century continues to be in a state of dynamic stability that has recurrent clashes and attempts to tug of war for the greater power.

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