Culture and Society

How do Congress and the judiciary limit presidential power?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. While it's understood that it's part of the U.S. president's role to propose a legislative agenda to Congress, only Congress itself can vote bills into law. This is one of the ways that Congress acts to balance presidential power. Additionally, Congress must confirm, by a two-thirds vote, presidential appointments of Supreme Court judges, diplomats, Cabinet members and the like. This limits the possibility that these positions will be filled with the president's cronies, and it helps Congress dictate some aspects of the character of the executive branch of government.

    While only Congress can make laws, the president can veto a Congressional decision and refuse to sign a bill presented by Congress. A bill passed by a simple majority cannot become law without the president's approval. If a president vetoes a bill, Congress can still work to have the law approved, but passage will require a two-thirds majority in both the House and the Senate, which is extremely hard to assure. Even the simple threat of a veto can at times stop progress on a bill that the president doesn't favor. Some presidents have used the veto more than others. For example, Franklin Roosevelt used the veto 635 times; Andrew Jackson only used it 12 times.

    The Constitution provides conditions for a general balance of power between the different branches of government. The president chooses Supreme Court judges, but his or her choices are subject to Congressional approval. Meanwhile, the president has the right to pardon people convicted by the court system. In this way, the president has power over the judiciary somewhat similar to the veto power he or she holds over Congress. On the other side of the coin, the judiciary can overturn presidential decisions and laws passed by Congress, if they are deemed illegal or unconstitutional.

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