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The President of the United States:
Legislative Powers

Most people view the President as the most powerful and influential person in the United States government. While he does wield a great deal of political might, his effect on the law-making process is limited. Only Congress can write legislation; the President may only recommend it. If he does so, then a member of Congress may introduce the bill for consideration.

Whereas only Congress may create legislation, it is difficult for them to pass a bill without the Presidentís approval. When Congress passes a bill, they send it to the White House. The President then has three options: sign the bill into law, veto the bill, or do nothing.

When the President signs a bill into law, it immediately goes into effect. At this point, only the Supreme Court can remove the law from the books by declaring it unconstitutional.

When the President vetoes a bill, it does not go into effect. The President vetoes a bill by returning it to Congress unsigned. In most cases, he will also send them an explanation of why he rejected the legislation. Congress can override a presidential veto, but to do so, two-thirds of each chamber must vote in favor of the bill. However, an override does not occur very often.

If the President chooses the third option, doing nothing with the bill, one of two things will occur. If Congress is in session ten business days after the President receives the bill, the legislation will become a law without the Presidentís signature. However, if Congress adjourns within ten business days of giving the bill to the President, the bill dies. When the President kills a bill in this fashion, it is known as a pocket veto. In this case, Congress can do nothing to override his decision.

The Presidential veto is an extremely powerful tool. Often, to get Congress to reconsider legislation, the President need only threaten to veto a bill if it passes.

However, this power has its limitations. The President may only veto a bill in its entirety; he does not have the power of a line-item veto, which would allow him to strike individual sections of a bill while still passing it. Because of this limitation, the President must often compromise if Congress passes a bill that he agrees with, but attaches a rider that goes against his policy.

Compromise, in general, is a crucial aspect to a Presidentís success in working with Congress. The Presidentís political party very rarely also controls Congress. Therefore, the President must work with Senators and Representatives who disagree with his agenda. However, if the President refused to pass any legislation that he disagreed with and Congress behaved similarly, the government would come to a halt. Thus, they must work together to keep the government moving.

In addition, the President relies on the support of the American people to accomplish his goals. The public elects the President and the members of Congress. When the public disapproves of the President, Senators and Representatives will distance themselves with the President and his agenda. If they side with an unpopular President, their constituents might not re-elect them. Thus, if the President loses popular support, he will lose support in Congress and will be unable to get any of his suggested legislation enacted.