How the President Influences Congress

More than any other outside entity, the President has a tremendous amount of influence regarding Congress. This is primarily due to the power of the veto. Provided there is one-third of either chamber of Congress that is in support of the position of the president, a veto can kill any piece of legislation. Only in rare circumstances is Congress able to override a veto.

James Madison, 4th U.S. President, 1809-1817

This remains relatively true even during times when the president may be unpopular. Even when the president is scoring low in the opinion polls with the public, it is still possible for him to affect the ability of Congress to enact legislation. The mere threat of the president using a veto can be enough to shape legislation in the direction of the president’s position. This is why presidents utilize the threat of a veto more than they actually use a veto.

The president also has an array of tools available for influencing Congress that extend beyond the veto. For instance, the president may choose to command public attention and focus it on his agenda. Regardless of the president’s popularity, when he speaks, the media covers what he says.

Ultimately, the president also controls the executive Persuading Congress, by Joseph Gibsondepartments. This is accomplished through the appointment power granted to the president. By acting under presidential direction, many federal departments and agencies decide critical policy issues.

The president also has a tremendous amount of influence and power regarding the ways in which the federal government spends money. Congress ultimately exercises the power of spending under the Constitution, and the president develops an annual budget request. Even though Congress may choose to make changes to the budget request of the president, the presidential request still forms a broad outline of the ways in which money is spent.

The popularity of presidents rises and falls, but they always wields a tremendous amount of influence regarding Congressional affairs.

Are you interested in learning more about persuading Congress? Sign up for TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill and their 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Persuading Congress, by Joseph Gibson, Ch. 8 The President

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