Article II is the second of seven articles of the Constitution, the lodestar of the KTB Prep American Government and Civics series designed to acquaint users with the origins, concepts, organizations, and policies of the United States government and political system. The goal is greater familiarization with the rights and obligations of citizenship at the local, state, national, and global levels and the history of our nation as a democracy.
What is the Constitution?
The Constitution of the United States of America is the supreme law of the United States. Empowered with the sovereign authority of the people by the framers and the consent of the legislatures of the states, it is the source of all government powers, and also provides important limitations on the government that protect the fundamental rights of United States citizens.
It’s organized into three parts. The first part, the Preamble, describes the purpose of the document and the Federal Government. The second part, the seven Articles, establishes how the Government is structured and how the Constitution can be changed. The third part, the 27 Amendments, lists changes to the Constitution; the first 10 are called the Bill of Rights.
Establishes the executive branch of the federal government, which carries out and enforces federal laws. Article II vests the power of the executive branch in the office of the president of the United States, lays out the procedures for electing and removing the president, and establishes the president’s powers and responsibilities.
Article II, Section 1: President and Vice President
Clause 1: Executive Power
The President of the United States has the executive power and will hold his or her office for a four year term along with a vice president for the same term. Similar clauses are found in Article I and Article III; the former bestows federal legislative power exclusively to Congress, and the latter grants judicial power solely to the Supreme Court, and other federal courts established by Congress. These three articles together secure a separation of powers among the three branches of the federal government, and individually, each one entrenches checks and balances on the operation and power of the other two branches.
Clause 2: Method of Choosing Electors
The President and the Vice President are chosen by the electors, who are usually picked by the state legislatures. Each state can choose as many electors as it has senators and representatives for that state.
Clause 3: Electors
Once the electors are chosen, they will meet in their state to vote on who shall be President and Vice President. Originally, the person with the most votes would become President while the second highest would become Vice President. However, after the passing of the 12th Amendment, Electors would vote once for a President and once for a Vice President.
Clause 4: Election Day
Congress sets a national Election Day. Currently, electors are chosen on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November (the first Tuesday after November 1), in the year before the president’s term is to expire. The electors cast their votes on the Monday following the second Wednesday in December (the first Monday after December 12) of that year. Thereafter, the votes are opened and counted by the vice president, as president of the Senate, in a joint session of Congress.
Clause 5: Qualifications for Office
At the time of taking office, the President must be:
- a natural born citizen (or they became a citizen before September 17, 1787)
- at least 35 years old
- an inhabitant of the United States for at least fourteen years
A person who meets the above qualifications, however, may still be constitutionally barred from holding the office of president under any of the following conditions:
- Article I, Section 3, Clause 7, gives the U.S. Senate the option of forever disqualifying anyone convicted in an impeachment case from holding any federal office.
- Section 3 of the 14th Amendment prohibits anyone who swore an oath to support the Constitution, and later rebelled against the United States, from becoming president. However, this disqualification can be lifted by a two-thirds vote of each house of Congress.
- The 22nd Amendment prohibits anyone from being elected to the presidency more than twice (or once if the person serves as president or acting president for more than two years of a presidential term to which someone else was originally elected).
Clause 6: Vacancy and Disability
If the President resigns, dies, is removed from office, or is not able to act out his duties, the Vice President will be responsible for replacing the President. If the Vice President is unable to continue his office, Congress must choose a suitable offer to replace him or her until the next election.
Clause 7: Salary
The President’s salary (currently $400,000 per year) cannot change during his term. He also cannot get money from any other state or federal government.
Clause 8: Oath or Affirmation
The President must take an oath before entering his office.
Article II, Section 2: Presidential Powers
Clause 1: Military Command; Cabinet Secretaries, Pardons
The President of the United States is the commander-in-chief of the military. It also requires the “principal officer” of any executive department to tender advice. Though not required by Article Two, all Presidents starting with Washington have organized the principal officers of the executive departments into the Cabinet
Pardons and reprieves may be granted by the president, except in cases of impeachment. They may be rejected by the felon. Commutations (reduction in prison sentence), unlike pardons (restoration of civil rights after prison sentence had been served) may not be refused.
Clause 2: Advice and Consent Clause
The President can use his powers only by getting help and approval of the United States Congress.
The president has the power to enter into treaties with the approval of two-thirds of the Senate.
The president has the power to appoint judges and public officials subject to the advice and consent of the Senate, which in practice has meant that presidential appointees must be confirmed by a majority vote in the Senate. Congress can, by law, allow the president, the courts, or the heads of departments to appoint “inferior officers” without requiring the advice and consent of the Senate.
Clause 3: Recess Appointments Clause
The President has the power to appoint officers during recesses of the court, but these appointments expire once the next session of the Senate begins.
Article II, Section 3: Responsibilities of the President
Clause 1: State of the Union
The President has to give Congress information occasionally through a State of the Union address.
Clause 2: Recommendation Clause
The president has the power and duty to recommend, for the consideration of Congress, such measures which the president deems as “necessary and expedient”. Performance rests solely with the president as Congress possesses no power to compel the president to recommend, as he alone is the “judge” of what is “necessary and expedient.”
Clause 3: Convening and Adjourning Congress
The President is empowered to call a special session of one or both houses of Congress, and authorizes the president to prorogue Congress if the House and Senate cannot agree on the time of adjournment.
Clause 4: Reception Clause
The president receives all foreign ambassadors which has come to mean the President possesses broad power over matters of foreign policy, support for the President’s exclusive authority to grant recognition to a foreign government.
Clause 5: Faithful Execution Clause
The president must “take care that the laws be faithfully executed” meaning the Constitution imposes a duty on the President to enforce the laws of the United States even if he disagrees with the purpose of that law.
Clause 6: Officers’ Commissions
The president commissions “all the Officers of the United States” including officers in both military and foreign service.
Article II, Section 4: Impeachment
The Constitution allows for involuntary removal from office of the president, vice president, Cabinet secretaries, and other executive officers, as well as judges, who may be impeached by the House of Representatives and tried in the Senate. Any official convicted by the Senate is immediately removed from office, and the Senate may also order, by a simple majority, that the removed official be forever disqualified from holding any federal office.While no other punishments may be inflicted pursuant to the impeachment proceeding, the convicted party remains liable to trial and punishment in the courts for civil and criminal charges.