Chief Legislator: Definition, Duties & Examples

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  • 0:00 One Job, Many Hats
  • 0:48 What Is the Chief…
  • 1:40 Specific Duties
  • 3:06 Historic Examples
  • 4:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Andrea Stephenson

Andrea has a Juris Doctor and has spoken at legal conferences on government transparency.

The President of the United States has many official roles, and this lesson will cover one of these -- that of Chief Legislator. You will learn what that role is, the duties that it entails, and examples of how presidents have exercised this role.

One Job, Many Hats

Think back to any job you ever had. Did it consist of just doing one thing over and over, or were you responsible for many different tasks? If you're like most people, your answer was the latter; after all, most jobs consist of many different duties and responsibilities all rolled into one. This is also true for one of the most high-profile jobs in the world -- that of President of the United States.

The president actually has seven different hats that he must wear. These are:

  • Chief of State
  • Chief Executive
  • Chief Diplomat
  • Commander-In-Chief
  • Chief Legislator
  • Chief of Party
  • Chief Guardian of the Economy

This lesson will focus on the president's role as the Chief Legislator.

What is the Chief Legislator Role?

Remember that each of the three branches of the Federal Government (legislative, judiciary and executive) are separate and distinct from each other. However, each branch has certain powers to prevent the other two branches from becoming too powerful. This is called the system of checks and balances. The President of the United States is in the executive branch. However, as part of the checks and balances, the president may exert some influence over the legislature of acting as the Chief Legislator.

Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution of the United States grants the President of the United States the role of Chief Legislator. As the Chief Legislator, the president is given the power to shape policy by asserting some influence over what Congress discusses and what bills it attempts to pass.

Specific Duties

As the Chief Legislator, the president has many duties. One of the more public duties is to give the State of the Union address to Congress and the American public. Another duty is to meet with foreign ambassadors and other public officials.

The president also carries out his duties as Chief Legislator in semi-private interactions with Congress, such as encouraging Congress to pass certain bills or take specific actions. When Congress does pass bills, the president reviews each bill and decides whether to sign it into law or veto it. A veto is the president's constitutional power to reject a bill passed by Congress that he does not agree with.

If a bill is signed into law by the president, then as Chief Legislator, he must ensure it is faithfully enforced. He also reviews and signs every commission sent to him by Congress for the appointment of officers of the United States, such as federal judges, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Defense.

On rare occasions, a president will assert his Chief Legislator power by convening Congress as a whole, or the Senate or House separately, in order for them to consider certain immediate matters. Or, in the case of a disagreement between the House or Senate, the president may adjourn both the Senate and House for a specified period if he deems it appropriate.

Historic Examples

There have been a number of times in history when a president publicly addressed Congress and urged them to take action. One of the most recognized of these addresses occurred when President John F. Kennedy spoke to a joint session of Congress on May 25, 1961 and urged them to establish a space exploration program to put a man on the moon. Congress did, in fact, take action, and the U.S. put a man on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission on July 20, 1969.

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