The Constitution: Executive Branch responsibilities, powers

This is the seventh in a series of essays about the Constitution and the second of two about the Executive Branch. It covers the responsibilities and powers of the Executive as set forth in the Constitution.

There are only four sections in the Constitution devoted to the Executive Branch, but they are significant. In Section 1 we learn the Branch is managed by a 35-plus-year-old, natural born citizen who has resided in the country for at least 14 years without interruption.

A compromise was struck on how to select the president. Some delegates feared the citizenry was not learned enough to select a qualified candidate. Others felt larger/richer states would dominate the office.

The compromise insured the president is not selected by a direct electorate, but by an Electoral College, whose members are selected by eligible voters in each state. Each major party names their slate of Electors on the ballot.

Originally, it was a winner take all vote, but now some states divide their Electors according to who wins in each House district. The number of Electors from each state is equal to the combined total of Senators and House members from each state. Currently, that total is 538.

As a service to the voters, each ballot also asks who the voters prefer to be their president. It is possible for a president to receive a majority of nods from the citizenry and not win the election.

Electors chosen by their parties cannot be members of Congress or be federal employees. All voting must be done throughout the country on the same day. The states send the Electoral votes to the Senate by a certain day. It is the duty of the Head of the Senate, the Vice President, to count the ballots in the presence of the Congress. The person with the most votes is the new president.

If there is no majority, the House immediately votes on a new chief executive. Each state has one vote in that election. The Electoral College is disbanded after each presidential election.

The president will receive a salary, which cannot be lowered or increased during his/her time in office. The president cannot receive "Emoluments" (profits or any compensations beyond a salary) while in office, and must take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

In Section 2 it states that the president is the Commander-in-Chief of our armed forces and can grant reprieves and pardons for those who break federal laws (except in cases of impeachment). Anyone receiving pardons must admit guilt.

With the advice and consent of the Senate, the chief executive can make treaties, and nominate ambassadors, federal judges, public ministers and consuls, and members of the Cabinet. If the senate is not meeting, the president has power to commission needed appointments, which will expire at the end of the Congressional session. No appointee is subservient to the president and must take an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

In Section 3 the president is directed to periodically give Congress an update on the State of the Union. Also, if in the president's judgment a national emergency exists, the president may convene both houses to help deal with the issue.

Because the president is tasked to conduct foreign policy and make treaties, recognized foreign ambassadors and other ministers are received by the President in the White House to receive that official recognition.

Section 4 covers impeachment. The president or vice president is removed if the Senate convicts for treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors. Earlier I stated that high crimes and misdemeanors are solely defined by the Congress.

• Bruce Simmons of Aurora is a former teacher with more than 25 years experience teaching social studies and humanities. This is one in a series of essays describing the history and meaning of the U.S. Constitution. The next two installments will cover Articles III through VII.

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