Fun Activities and Facts about the Presidential Inauguration - What is the Executive Branch

This graphic, from USA.Gov, depicts how the U.S. Constitution divides the power of American government into three separate branches. The Executive Branch includes the President, the Vice President and the President's Cabinet.


What is the Executive Branch?

The power of the Executive Branch—set forth in Article II of the U.S. Constitution—is vested in the President of the United States, who also acts as head of state and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The President is responsible for implementing and enforcing the laws and appoints the heads of the federal agencies and Cabinet.

The Vice President is also part of the Executive Branch, ready to assume the Presidency should the need arise.

Why Is the Position Important?

The President has the power either to sign legislation into law or to veto* bills enacted by Congress.

The Executive Branch conducts diplomacy with other nations, and the President has the power to negotiate and sign treaties, which also must be ratified by two-thirds of the Senate.

The President can issue executive orders, which direct executive officers or clarify and further existing laws.

The President also has unlimited power to extend pardons (when a person is forgiven of a crime) and clemencies (giving mercy to a convicted individual) for federal crimes, except in cases of impeachment.

What Are the Qualifications to Become a President?

The President must be 35 years of age, be a natural-born citizen and must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years.

What Role Does the Electoral College Have in Electing the President?

The President is not, in fact, directly elected by the American people. Instead, on the first Tuesday in November of every fourth year, the people elect the members of the Electoral College. Elector-College members are apportioned by population to the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Electors then cast the votes for President. As of 2016, there are currently 538 electors in the Electoral College.

What is the Cabinet?

The President’s Cabinet is an advisory body made up of the heads of the 15 executive departments. The Cabinet is appointed by the President. They include the Departments of:

  • Agriculture
  • Commerce
  • Defense
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Health and Human Services
  • Homeland Security
  • Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
  • The Interior
  • Justice
  • Labor
  • State
  • Transportation
  • Treasury

All of these departments are headed by a “Secretary,” such as the “Secretary of State,” except for the Justice Department. That is headed by Attorney General.

Department Secretaries, and the Attorney General, have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

How did the Cabinet Start?

President George Washington started the tradition of a Cabinet when he picked four men to help him. They were:

  • Thomas Jefferson (Secretary of State);
  • Alexander Hamilton (Secretary of the Treasury);
  • Henry Knox (Secretary of War)l and
  • Edmund Randolph (Attorney General).

*A veto means that the President does not approve of the bill and it cannot become law unless the Senate and House can override the President’s decision (not to approve the bill) by a 2/3rds vote.

Original Release: Nov 27, 2016

Updated Last Revision: Sep 01, 2017

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"What is the Executive Branch" AwesomeStories.com. Nov 27, 2016. Jan 27, 2020.
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