1.) Formal and Informal Powers of Congress
Under the Constitution, Congress is charged with carrying out the legislative functions of government. The framers of the Constitution wanted the lawmaking and national policy role to be in the hands of a representative body. The “formal powers”, structure, and procedures of the national legislature are outlined in considerable detail in Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution. These powers are extensive, however as a means of “sharing” powers and functions between separate institutions, most of them are shared with the other two branches, particularly the executive.
Congress has the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises; all duties, imposts and excises must be uniform throughout the United States. To borrow money. To coin money, set it’s value, and punish counterfeiting. To raise and support an army and navy and make rules for their governance. To declare war. To establish a post office. To establish rules for becoming a citizen and bankruptcy. To issue patents and copyrights to inventors and authors. To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court. To define and punish piracies, felonies on the high seas, and crimes against the law of nations. To exercise exclusive legislative powers over the seat of government and over places purchased as federal facilities.
At the end of Section 8, the Constitution broadly implies, Congress has the power to do what is “necessary and proper” for carrying into execution all powers vested by the Constitution; also known as the Elastic Clause. Another important “informal power” is the ability to investigate the executive branch or one of their agencies. Also, Congress can hold hearings. 2.) Formal and Informal Powers of the President
The role and powers of the President of United States is outlined in Article II of the Constitution. Compared to the explicit powers of the Congress, the Constitution grants far fewer explicit powers to the President, the ambiguity and vagueness of Article II have made it possible for presidents to expand their authority greatly beyond that specifically listed in the Constitution.
Under Article II, the President has the following “formal” powers. The power of appointment; the President is responsible for making about 6,000 appointments – the most important of which are his cabinet and federal judges (most of these must be approved by the Senate). As Commander-in-Chief the President is the final authority in military matters and ultimately is responsible for the entire military might of the United States. The President has the right to conduct diplomatic missions and set foreign policy on behalf of the United States. The President has the power to pardon or commute the sentence of convicted criminals. The President has the ability to declare a 90 day period of Emergency during which he can use the full force of the military without seeking permission from Congress either in the form of a declaration of war or through funding. The President can veto any bill signed by Congress, preventing it from passing unless both Houses can muster a 2/3rd majority in favor of passing the bill. In most cases, a veto will kill a proposed bill.
Probably the most important “informal power” of the President is his ability to influence the legislative agenda and set economic policy. As the most powerful single individual in the U.S. government, the President is able to “throw his weight around” and influence areas not under his direct control.