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ArtII.S3.1 The President's Legislative Role

Article II, 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.

The first two clauses of Article II, Section 3 relate to the President’s legislative role. The first clause, directing the President to report to the Congress on the state of the union, imposes a duty rather than confers a power and serves as the formal basis of the President’s legislative leadership. The President’s legislative role has grown substantially since 1900. This development, however, reflects changes in political and social forces rather than any pronounced change in constitutional interpretation. The rise of parties and the accompanying recognition of the President as party leader, the appearance of the National Nominating Convention and the Party Platform, and the introduction of the Spoils System all contributed to the growth of the President’s legislative role.1 While certain pre-Civil War Presidents, mostly of Whig extraction, professed hesitation regarding “usurping” legislative powers,2 still earlier Presidents—including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson—took a very different line, albeit less boldly and persistently than their later successors.3 Today, there is no subject on which the President may not appropriately communicate to Congress, in as precise terms as he chooses, his conception of its duty. Conversely, the President is not obliged by this Clause to impart information which, in his judgment, should in the public interest be withheld.4

The second clause of Article II, Section 3 authorizes the President to convene or adjourn the Houses of Congress in certain circumstances. The President has frequently summoned both Houses into “extra” or “special sessions” for legislative purposes, and the Senate alone for the consideration of nominations and treaties. His power to adjourn the Houses has never been exercised.

N. Small, Some Presidential Interpretations of the Presidency (1932); W. Binkley, The President and Congress (2d ed. 1962); Edward Corwin, Total War and the Constitution chs. 1, 7 (1946). back
Presidents William Harrison, James Polk, Zackary Taylor, and Millard Fillmore all fathered sentiments to this general effect. See 4 Messages and Papers of the Presidents 1860, 1864 (J. Richardson ed. 1896); 6 id. at 2513–19, 2561–62, 2608, 2615. back
See sources cited supra note 2. back
Warren, Presidential Declarations of Independence, 10 B.U. L. Rev. 1 (1930). back