Signed in convention September 17, 1787. Ratified June 21, 1788. Portions of Article II, Section 1, were changed by the 12th Amendment and the 25th Amendment.
SECTION. 1. The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four Years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows:
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately chuse by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner chuse the President. But in chusing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this Purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall chuse from them by Ballot the Vice President.
The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.
No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.
In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the Same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by Law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.
The President shall, at stated Times, receive for his Services, a Compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.
Before he enter on the Execution of his Office, he shall take the following Oath or Affirmation:--"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States."
SECTION. 2. The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offenses against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
SECTION. 3. He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.
SECTION. 4. The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.
Article II, Section 1 establishes that the president has the power to run the executive branch of the government. This section, later modified by Amendments XII and XXV, outlines who is eligible to serve as president, establishes the Electoral College (the means by which the president and vice president are elected), and authorizes Congress to determine who will replace the president and vice president should they be unable to serve during their term of office.
Article II, Section 1 establishes that the president and vice president are to be elected at the same time and serve the same four-year term. Until 1951, presidents could serve for as many four-year terms as they could win. But after President Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected for four terms, Congress passed and the states ratified Amendment XXII, which limits a president to two terms (eight years) in office. In the rare case that a vice president (or other official) takes over for a president who has stepped down or died in office and serves more than two years of the remaining term, he or she is limited to one new term.
Rather than being elected directly by the people, the president is elected by members of the Electoral College, which is created by Article II, Section 1. It is not really a “college,” but a group of people who are elected by the states. Each state is entitled to the number of electors equal to the combined number of their representatives and senators in Congress.
Neither members of Congress nor other federal officials may serve as electors. Each state legislature decides how members of the Electoral College are to be selected and how they are to vote. For example, some states select electors at primary elections or at caucuses. In most states, electors vote for the presidential candidate who won the vote in their state. But in a few states, state law specifies that electors cast their votes according to the percentage of votes received by each candidate. If the Republican candidate receives 55 percent of the vote, he or she receives the votes of 55 percent of the electors. The creation of the Electoral College gives more power to the smaller states, rather than letting the people in the most populous states control who becomes president.
Additional rules were added in 1804, when Amendment XII was adopted. For example, the amendment creates the way a president is selected when neither candidate obtains a majority of votes in the Electoral College.
There are three minimum requirements to be elected president: one must be a natural-born citizen of the United States, must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years, and must be at least 35 years old.
Although Article II, Section 1 originally provided who should become president if the president dies, resigns, or is removed from office, Amendment XXV, added in 1967, modified the line of succession.
The president’s salary is set by Congress. To avoid allowing Congress to punish or reward the president while he or she is in office, the Constitution prohibits any change in salary during the president’s term. The president also is prohibited from receiving any other type of compensation or perks while in office.
Before assuming office, the president must swear or affirm to do his or her best to serve as the nation’s leader and to uphold the United States Constitution as the law of the land.
The president serves not only as the head of the executive branch of government, but also as the commander in chief of the armed forces (including state national guards when they are called on to serve with the federal armed forces).
As chief executive, the president runs the different executive agencies, such as the Department of the Treasury or the Department of Health and Human Services.
The president has the power to pardon (let free) any person who has committed a federal crime, except in cases of impeachment.
With permission from two-thirds of the senators present, the president can make treaties (agreements) with other countries. With the approval of a majority of senators, the president makes a number of key appointments. These include U.S. ambassadors and foreign consuls, Supreme Court justices and federal judges, U.S. attorneys, U.S. marshals, Cabinet officers, independent agency heads, and members of regulatory commissions. To ensure that the president can fill vacancies when the Senate is not in session, the president can make any of these appointments without Senate approval, but these “recess appointments” end at the end of the next Senate session.
Congress may choose to require Senate approval of other presidential appointments or let the president, courts or department heads appoint staff and agency employees without approval by the Senate.
During his or her term, the president must report to Congress about how things are going in the country. Every president from Jefferson to Taft fulfilled this duty with a written statement submitted to Congress. But in 1913, Woodrow Wilson resumed George Washington’s practice of directly addressing a joint session of Congress. This “State of the Union” speech, a tradition that continues to this day, usually occurs in January or February each year.
The president also has the power, in extreme cases, to call both the House of Representatives and the Senate together for a special session. The president is given the power to meet with representatives from other nations on behalf of the United States and to otherwise run the country by enforcing the laws and directing officers and staff.
The Constitution provides that the president, vice president, and other federal officers can be removed from office upon impeachment by the House and conviction by the Senate of treason, bribery, or other serious crimes. The process was begun only three times in U.S. history against a president — against Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon (although he resigned before Congress could formally act) and Bill Clinton.
The impeachment process begins in the House of Representatives with a vote to impeach. Then the president (or other accused government official) stands trial for the accusations in the Senate. The Chief Justice of the United States presides at an impeachment trial of the president.
In all impeachment trials, members of the House serve as prosecutors and the full Senate sits as the jury. The accused official must be convicted by a two-thirds vote of the Senate to be removed from office.
Annenberg Classroom connects an award-winning, comprehensive multimedia curriculum on the Constitution to daily civics news and articles that support in-class and online student discussion. Annenberg Classroom also includes FlackCheck.org, an excellent resource for teaching political literacy skills. Annenberg Classroom is presented by the Leonore Annenberg Institute for Civics of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania.
The duty of the executive branch is to enforce the laws. As a result of increasing federal regulation, the executive is by far the largest branch of government. It consists not only of the president, the vice president, and the cabinet officers, but also more than three million civilian and military employees. The primary responsibility of the president, and the entire executive branch, is best expressed in Section 3 of Article II: “He shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed.”
Article II focuses almost exclusively on the president. It sets forth how the president is to be selected, through the electoral college. Article II also describes presidential powers—among them commanding the armed forces, negotiating treaties, and nominating justices of the Supreme Court. And, if the president has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors,” Article II allows him or her to be impeached and removed from office.
Linda R. Monk, J.D., is a constitutional scholar, journalist, and nationally award-winning author. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she twice received the American Bar Association’s Silver Gavel Award, its highest honor for law-related media. Her books include The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution, Ordinary Americans: U.S. History Through the Eyes of Everyday People, and The Bill of Rights: A User’s Guide. For more than 25 years, Dr. Monk has written commentary for newspapers nationwide, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, and Huffington Post. In addition, she has appeared on MSNBC, C-SPAN, and NPR.