Implied Powers of the President of the U.S.

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  • 0:04 Being the President
  • 0:38 Implied vs Enumerated Powers
  • 1:29 Implied Powers of the…
  • 4:04 Implied Powers…
  • 5:46 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Mercado

I completed my BA in Criminal Justice in 2015. Currently working on my MS in Homeland Security Management.

The writers of the U.S. Constitution gave the president the power to do specific things, but they also tried to plan for unforeseen circumstances by giving the president unspecified powers. These are called implied powers, and we'll take a look at what they are and how they've been used.

Being the President

Imagine you are elected president. On your first day in office, you start to try to make good on your promises. These include improving the relationship between the U.S. and China, vetoing an unpopular law lifting emissions caps that Congress is about to pass, and passing new workplace safety regulations. All of these are in your power, but not necessarily because the Constitution said so. How can you legally keep all three promises? You need to use the implied power of the presidency.

Implied vs. Enumerated Powers

Implied powers are powers that aren't specifically expressed within the U.S. Constitution or outlined in any law. They follow from the enumerated powers given to the president in the Constitution, which include carrying out the law, conducting diplomacy, vetoing laws, appointing certain officials, granting pardons, and issuing proclamations. For example, the president is explicitly given the power to appoint Cabinet members, with Senate approval, but the Constitution does not say that the president can dismiss Cabinet members. It's generally accepted that the power to dismiss Cabinet members is implied by the power to appoint them.

Take a second to look at the list of enumerated powers we just went over. Which of your three promises can you definitely keep by using an enumerated power in our example of you being elected president?

Implied Powers of the President

You probably saw that you can veto the law by using a power explicitly granted by the Constitution. Now let's look at how you can keep your other two promises and see what else you can do by using your implied powers.

Let's first look at foreign policy. Foreign policy has always been a grey area, since the Constitution doesn't say much about the division of power between Congress and the president. Presidents are explicitly empowered to make treaties with other nations; treaties require the approval of 2/3 of the Senate. Other powers are also implied by the ability to receive ambassadors. For example, they can also make executive agreements, which are very similar to treaties, but don't require Senate approval. Executive orders are also commonly issued that affect foreign policy and international relations. The president has many more implied powers, including convening meetings of world leaders and imposing sanctions.

Let's consider your promise of improving U.S.-China relations. You've decided it will help to make a new free-trade agreement with China, but only half of the Senate approves of your decision. How would you make the agreement?

Now let's take a look at wartime powers. As commander-in-chief, the president has broad discretion over military operations. The president has the ability to send troops to foreign countries without receiving consent from Congress. This implied power was limited by the War Powers Act of 1973. Now, the president can still send troops overseas, but if he or she doesn't gain the consent of Congress within 60 days, the troops must be withdrawn from the area. Sending troops to Iraq in 2003 wasn't denied by Congress. Congress never declared war, but also did not say the soldiers must withdraw.

As Commander-in-Chief, the president also has the power to re-institute the draft, or forced enlistment of soldiers, in times of emergency. The president cannot declare war, however. This is an enumerated power of Congress.

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