The Organization and Institution of the Presidency

The Executive Office of the President

The Executive Office of the President is comprised of a Chief of Staff, Counsel, Press Secretary, and other members assisting the President of the United States.

Learning Objectives

Distinguish the various key positions in the Executive Office and the roles and responsibilities of each

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The White House Chief of Staff is the highest-ranking employee of the White House Office inside the Executive Office of the President of the United States and is an Assistant to the President.
  • The roles of the Chief of Staff are both managerial and advisory and can include the following: select key White House staff and supervise them; structure the white house staff; control the flow of people into the Oval Office; and advice the President on various issues.
  • The White House Counsel’s role is to advise the President on all legal issues concerning the President and the White House.
  • The White House Press Secretary is responsible for collecting information about actions and events within the president’s administration and issues the administration’s reactions to developments around the world.
  • The Chief of Staff is assisted by one or more Deputy Chiefs of Staff.

Key Terms

  • white house press secretary: The White House Press Secretary is a senior White House official whose primary responsibility is to act as spokesperson for the government administration. The Press Secretary is responsible for collecting information about actions and events within the president’s administration and issues the administration’s reactions to developments around the world.
  • de facto prime minister: It is possible that a powerful Chief of Staff with a “hands-off” president can become a de facto Prime Minister. Such prime ministers exist in some governmental systems: The prime minister runs the government, while the president remains somewhat aloof from the political process, but personally handling policy matters.
  • white house chief of staff: The White House Chief of Staff is the highest-ranking employee of the White House Office inside the Executive Office of the President of the United States and is an Assistant to the President.
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Jacob Lew: The current White House Chief of Staff is Jacob Lew, who assumed the position on January 27, 2012, after William M. Daley resigned.

The Executive Office of the President (EOP) consists of the immediate staff of the President of the United States, as well as multiple levels of support staff reporting to the President. The EOP is headed by the White House Chief of Staff, currently Jacob Lew. The size of the White House staff has increased dramatically since 1939, and has grown to include an array of policy experts in various fields.

Chief of Staff

The White House Chief of Staff is an Assistant to the President, and is the highest-ranking employee of the White House Office inside the Executive Office of the President of the United States. The current White House Chief of Staff is Denis McDonough who took over the job from Jacob Lew in 2013.

The roles of the Chief of Staff are both managerial and advisory. the Chief of Staff may select key White House staff and supervise them; structure the White House staff; control the flow of people into the Oval Office; and advise the President on various issues.The duties of the White House Chief of Staff vary greatly from one administration to another; in fact, there is no legal requirement that the President even fill the position. However, since at least 1979, all Presidents have found the need for a Chief of Staff, who typically oversees the actions of the White House staff, manages the president’s schedule, and decides who is allowed to meet with the president. Because of these duties, the Chief of Staff has at various times been labeled “The Gatekeeper,” “The Power Behind the Throne,” and “The Co-President. ”

A powerful Chief of Staff with a “hands-off” president can become a de facto Prime Minister. Such prime ministers exist in some governmental systems: The prime minister runs the government, while the president remains somewhat aloof from the political process, but personally handling policy matters. Richard Nixon’s first Chief of Staff, H.R. Haldeman, garnered a reputation in Washington for the iron hand he wielded in the position. By contrast, Andrew Card, President George W. Bush’s first Chief of Staff, was not thought to be as powerful. It has been speculated that Card was “overshadowed” by the influence of Karl Rove, the Senior Adviser and Deputy Chief of Staff, who was “the architect” of Bush’s political rise.

Deputy Chiefs of Staff

The Chief of Staff is assisted by one or more Deputy Chiefs of Staff. Under the Obama Administration, these roles are filled by Anita Decker Breckenridge, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Kristie Canegallo, Deputy Chief of Staff for Implementation. During the George W. Bush Administration, Joel Kaplan held this title for Policy. Karl Rove preceded Kaplan in this role until April 19, 2006, when Joshua Bolten, the recently appointed Chief of Staff, added his former Deputy Director of the OMB to the Deputies list. Rove left the White House officially on August 31, 2007. Joe Hagin is the former Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations under George W. Bush.

Counsel

The White House Counsel is a staff appointee of the President of the United States. The Counsel’s role is to advise the President on all legal issues concerning the President and the White House. The current White House Counsel is W. Neil Eggleston since 2014. Although the White House Counsel offers legal advice to the President, the Counsel does so in the President’s official capacity and does not serve as the President’s personal attorney. Therefore, controversy has emerged over the scope of the attorney–client privilege between the Counsel and the President. It is clear, however, that the privilege does not apply in personal matters, such as impeachment proceedings; in such situations the President relies on a personal attorney for confidential legal advice.

Press Secretary

The White House Press Secretary is a senior White House official whose primary responsibility is to act as spokesperson for the administration. The Press Secretary is responsible for collecting information about actions and events within the president’s administration and issues statements regarding the administration’s reactions to developments around the world. The Press Secretary interacts with the media and deals with the White House press corps on a daily basis, generally in a daily press briefing. The current Press Secretary is Josh Earnest since 2014.

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Jay Carney: Jay Carney is the current White House Press Secretary.

History of the Executive Office of the President

In 1939, during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second term in office, the foundations of the modern White House staff were created. Based on the recommendations of a presidentially commissioned panel of political science and public administration experts, the Brownlow Committee, Roosevelt was able to get Congress to approve the Reorganization Act of 1939. The Act led to Reorganization Plan No. 1, which created the EOP, which reported directly to the president. The EOP encompassed two subunits at its outset: the White House Office (WHO) and the Bureau of the Budget, the predecessor to today’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), which had been created in 1921 and originally located in the Treasury Department. It absorbed most of the functions of the National Emergency Council. The main job of the OMB is to assist the President to prepare the budget. The OMB also measures the quality of agency programs, policies, and procedures and to see if they comply with the President’s policies. In addition, the OMB oversees and coordinates the Administration’s procurement, financial management, information, and regulatory policies. In each of these areas, the OMB’s role is to help improve administrative management, to develop better performance measures and coordinating mechanisms, and to reduce any unnecessary burdens on the public.

From 1939 through the present, the situation changed dramatically. New units within the EOP were created, some by statute, some by executive order of the president. Among the most important are the Council of Economic Advisers (1946), the National Security Council and its staff (1947), the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (1963), the Council on Environmental Quality (1970), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (1976), the Office of Administration (1977), and the Office of National Drug Control Policy (1989).

Under George W. Bush, additional units were added, such as the Office of Homeland Security (2001), which later became a cabinet department, and the Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives (2001). Precise estimates as to the size and budget of the EOP are difficult to come by. Many people who work on the staff are “detailed” from other federal departments and agencies, and budgetary expenses are often charged elsewhere, for example Defense Department staff for the White House Military Office. Ballpark estimates indicate some 2,000 to 2,500 persons serve in EOP staff positions with policy-making responsibilities, with a budget of 300 to 400 million dollars.

The Cabinet

The Cabinet of the United States is composed of the most senior appointed officers of the executive branch of the federal government.

Learning Objectives

Discuss the shape of the Cabinet of the United States and its role in government

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • All Cabinet members are nominated by the President and then presented to the Senate for confirmation or rejection by a simple majority. If they are approved, they are sworn in and then begin their duties.
  • There is no explicit definition of the term “Cabinet” in either the U.S. Constitution, the United States Code, or the Code of Federal Regulations.
  • Executive Schedule refers to the highest-ranked appointed positions in the executive branch of the U.S. government. The President of the United States, an elected official, appoints incumbents to these positions, most of them with the advice and consent of the Senate.

Key Terms

  • executive schedule: Executive Schedule refers to the highest-ranked appointed positions in the executive branch of the U.S. government. The President of the United States makes appointments to these positions, most with the advice and consent of the Senate.
  • Cabinet: In parliamentary and some other systems of government, the group of ministers responsible for creating government policy and for overseeing the departments comprising the executive branch.

Introduction

The Cabinet of the United States is composed of the most senior appointed officers of the executive branch of the federal government of the United States, who are generally the heads of the federal executive departments. The existence of the Cabinet dates back to the first President of the United States, George Washington, who appointed a Cabinet of four men: Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of War Henry Knox, and Attorney General Edmund Randolph to advise him and to assist him in carrying out his duties.

All Cabinet members are nominated by the President and then presented to the Senate for confirmation or rejection by a simple majority. If they are approved, they are sworn in and begin their duties. Aside from the Attorney General and the Postmaster General (when it was a Cabinet position), they all receive the title of Secretary. Members of the Cabinet serve at the pleasure of the President, which means that the President may dismiss them or reappoint them (to other posts) at will. Members of the Cabinet direct their own departments; however, all of the power that they have derives from the President, in that while they may advise the President, they carry the President’s directives. In other words, the Cabinet may help shape policy, but they do not typically drive or direct policy.

In Federal Law and the Constitution

There is no explicit definition of the term “Cabinet” in either the U.S. Constitution, the United States Code, or the Code of Federal Regulations. There are occasional references to “cabinet-level officers” or “secretaries,” which when viewed in their context do refer to the “Heads of the Executive Departments.” Executive Schedule refers to the highest-ranked appointed positions in the executive branch of the U.S. government. The President of the United States, an elected official, appoints incumbents to these positions, most of them with the advice and consent of the Senate. They include members of the President’s Cabinet as well as other subcabinet policy makers. There are five pay rates within the Executive Schedule, usually denoted with a Roman numeral with I being the highest level and V the lowest.

The President of the United States has the authority to nominate members of his or her cabinet to the United States Senate for confirmation under Article II, Section II, Clause II of the United States Constitution.

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U.S. Cabinet: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden pose with the full Cabinet for an official group photo in the Grand Foyer of the White House, July 26, 2012. These included U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Susan Rice, Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

Cabinet Positions

The Secretary of State designate is reviewed and presented to the full Senate by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John Kerry is the current Secretary of State for President Obama’s second term, replacing Hillary Clinton. The Secretary of the Treasury is reviewed by the Senate Finance Committee. Jack Lew is Secretary of the Treasury. Ashton Carter is Secretary of Defense.

The confirmation of the office of Attorney General is overseen by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Eric Holder, Obama’s first-term Attorney General was replaced by Loretta E. Lynch for the second term.

The Vice Presidency

Constitutionally, the Vice President is indirectly elected by the people through the Electoral College to a four-year term of office.

Learning Objectives

Distinguish between the Vice President’s constitutionally defined functions and the role the office has come to play

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The Vice President is the first person in the presidential line of succession, and would ascend to the Presidency upon the death, resignation, or removal of the President.
  • While the Vice President’s only constitutionally prescribed functions aside from Presidential succession relate to his role as President of the Senate, the office is commonly viewed as a component of the executive branch of the federal government.
  • Under the Constitution, the Vice President is President of the United States Senate. In that capacity, he or she is allowed to vote in the Senate when necessary to break a tie.
  • While Senate customs have created supermajority rules that have diminished this Constitutional power, the Vice President still retains the ability to influence legislation.
  • In modern times, the Vice President rarely presides over day-to-day matters in the Senate; in his place, the Senate chooses a President pro tempore (or “president for a time”) to preside in the Vice President’s absence; the Senate normally selects the longest-serving senator in the majority party.
  • The Twenty-Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides that should the president die or become disabled while in office, the “powers and duties” of the office are transferred to the Vice President.

Key Terms

  • vice president: A deputy to a president, often empowered to assume the position of president on his death or absence
  • twenty-fifth amendment: The Twenty-fifth Amendment (Amendment XXV) to the United States Constitution deals with succession to the Presidency and establishes procedures both for filling a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, as well as responding to Presidential disabilities.
  • president pro tempore: The President pro tempore is the second-highest-ranking official of the United States Senate. The United States Constitution states that the Vice President of the United States is the President of the Senate, despite not being a member of the body, and that the Senate must choose a president pro tempore. By a long-standing tradition which has been observed consistently since the 81st Congress, the president pro tempore is the most senior senator in the majority party.

Introduction

The Vice President of the United States holds a public office created by the United States Constitution. The vice president, together with the president of the United States, is indirectly elected by the people through the Electoral College to a four-year term of office. The vice president is the first person in the presidential line of succession, and would ascend to the presidency upon the death, resignation, or removal of the president. While the vice president’s only constitutionally prescribed functions, aside from presidential succession, relate to his role as President of the Senate, the office is commonly viewed as a component of the executive branch of the federal government. The current vice president is former U.S. Senator Joseph Biden.

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Official Portrait of Joe Biden: Official portrait of Vice President of the United States Joe Biden.

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Four Vice-Presidents: Four Vice Presidents: L-R, outgoing Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson (the 37th vice president); incoming Pres. Richard Nixon (36th); Everett Dirksen; Spiro Agnew, incoming vice president (39th); and the outgoing Vice President Hubert Humphrey (38th), January 20, 1969.

Under the Constitution, the vice president is President of the United States Senate. In that capacity, he or she is allowed to vote in the Senate, when necessary, to break a tie. While Senate customs have created supermajority rules that have diminished this constitutional power, the vice president still influences legislation. According to the Twelfth Amendment, the vice president presides over the joint session of Congress when it convenes to count the vote of the Electoral College.

Origin

The creation of the Office of Vice President was a direct consequence of the Electoral College. Delegates to the Philadelphia Convention gave each state a number of presidential electors equal to that state’s combined share of House and Senate seats. Yet, the delegates were worried that each elector would only favor his own state’s favorite son candidate, resulting in deadlocked elections that would produce no winners. To counter this presumed difficulty, the delegates gave each presidential elector two votes, required that at least one of those votes be for a candidate from outside the elector’s state, and mandated that the winner of the election obtain an absolute majority with respect to the total number of electors.

With these rules in place, the delegates hoped each electors’ second vote would go to a statesman of national character However, fearing electors might throw away their second vote to bolster their favorite son’s chance of winning, the Philadelphia delegates specified that the runner up in the election would become vice president. Creating this new office imposed a political cost on discarded votes and, thus, required that electors cast their second ballots.

Roles of the Vice-President

As President of the Senate, the vice president has two primary duties: to cast a vote in the event of a Senate deadlock and to preside over and certify the official vote count of the U.S. Electoral College. For example, in the first half of 2001, the Senators were divided 50-50 between Republicans and Democrats and Dick Cheney’s tie-breaking vote gave the Republicans the Senate majority. In modern times, the vice president rarely presides over day-to-day matters in the Senate; in his place, the Senate chooses a president pro tempore (or “president for a time”) to preside in the vice president’s absence; the Senate normally selects the longest-serving senator in the majority party. The president pro tempore has the power to appoint any other senator to preside and, in practice, junior senators from the majority party are assigned the task of presiding over the Senate most of the time.

The President of the Senate also presides over counting and presentation of the votes of the Electoral College. This process occurs in the presence of both houses of Congress, generally on January 6 of the year following a U.S. presidential election. In this capacity, only four vice presidents have been able to announce their own election to the presidency: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren, and George H. W. Bush. By contrast, Richard Nixon presided over the process but also officially announced the election of his 1960 opponent, John F. Kennedy.

Twenty-Fifth Amendment

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John Tyler: John Tyler was the first Vice President to assume the presidency following the death of his predecessor. In doing so, he insisted that he was the president, not merely an acting president.

The U.S. Constitution provides that should the president die or become disabled while in office, the “powers and duties” of the office are transferred to the vice president. Initially, it was unclear whether the vice president actually became the new president or merely an acting president. This was first tested in 1841 with the death of President William Henry Harrison. Harrison’s Vice President, John Tyler, asserted that he had succeeded to the full presidential office, powers, and title and declined to acknowledge documents referring to him as “acting president. ” Despite some strong calls against it, Tyler took the oath of office as the tenth president. Gerald Ford was the first vice president selected by this method, after the resignation of Vice President Spiro Agnew in 1973; after succeeding to the Presidency, Ford nominated Nelson Rockefeller as vice president.

 

 

 

The First Spouse

The First Lady of the United States is the hostess of the White House, traditionally filled by the wife of the president.

Learning Objectives

Describe the evolution of the role of the First Lady

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The use of the title First Lady to describe the spouse or hostess of an executive began in the United States. In the early days of the United States, there was not a generally accepted title for the wife of the president.
  • The role of the First Lady has evolved over the centuries. She is, first and foremost, the hostess of the White House. She organizes and attends official ceremonies and functions of state either along with, or in place of, the president.
  • The Office of the First Lady of the United States helps the First Lady carry out her duties as hostess of the White House, and is also in charge of all social and ceremonial events of the White House.
  • The current First Lady is Michelle Obama, wife of President Barack Obama.

Key Terms

  • first lady of the united states: The First Lady of the United States is the hostess of the White House. Because this position is traditionally filled by the wife of the president of the United States, the title is most often applied to the wife of a sitting president.

Introduction

The First Lady of the United States is the hostess of the White House. This position is traditionally filled by the wife of the President of the United States. The current First Lady is Michelle Obama, wife of President Barack Obama. At present, there are four living former first ladies: Rosalynn Carter, wife of Jimmy Carter; Barbara Bush, wife of George H. W. Bush; Hillary Rodham Clinton, wife of Bill Clinton; and Laura Bush, wife of George W. Bush.

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Four First Ladies: Laura Bush and former first ladies, from left, Rosalynn Carter, then-Senator Hillary Clinton, and Barbara Bush, at the dedication ceremony for the William J. Clinton Presidential Center and Park in Little Rock, Arkansas, November 18, 2004.

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Michelle Obama: Michelle Obama, official White House portrait.

Origins of First Lady

The use of the title First Ladyto describe the spouse or hostess of an executive began in the United States. In the early days of the United States, there was not a generally accepted title for the wife of the president.

The earliest known written evidence of the title is from the November 3, 1863, diary entry of William Howard Russell, in which he recalled gossip about “the First Lady in the Land,” referring to Mary Todd Lincoln. The title first gained nationwide recognition in 1877, when newspaper journalist Mary C. Ames referred to Lucy Webb Hayes as “the First Lady of the Land” while reporting on the inauguration of Rutherford B. Hayes. The frequent reporting on the activities of Lucy Hayes helped spread use of the title outside Washington. A popular 1911 comedic play by playwright Charles Nirdlinger, titled The First Lady in the Land, popularized the title further. By the 1930s it was in wide use. Use of the title later spread from the United States to other nations.

Roles of First Lady

The position of the First Lady is not an elected one, carries no official duties, and receives no salary. Nonetheless, first ladies have held a highly visible position in U.S. government. The role of the First Lady has evolved over the centuries. She is, first and foremost, the hostess of the White House. She organizes and attends official ceremonies and functions of state either along with, or in place of, the president.

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First Ladies at Ronald Reagan Presidential Library: First Ladies Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush (standing, left to right), Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon, Rosalynn Carter, and Betty Ford (seated, left to right) at the dedication of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, November 1991.

Over the course of the 20th century it became increasingly common for first ladies to select specific causes to promote, usually ones that are not politically divisive. It is common for the First Lady to hire a staff to support these activities. Lady Bird Johnson pioneered environmental protection and beautification; Pat Nixon encouraged volunteerism and traveled extensively abroad; Betty Ford supported women’s rights; Rosalynn Carter aided those with mental disabilities; Nancy Reagan founded the Just Say No drug awareness campaign; Barbara Bush promoted literacy; Hillary Rodham Clinton sought to reform the healthcare system in the U.S.; and Laura Bush supported women’s rights groups and encouraged childhood literacy. Michelle Obama has sought to tackle childhood obesity.

Office of the First Lady

The Office of the First Lady of the United States helps the First Lady carry out her duties as hostess of the White House, and is also in charge of all social and ceremonial events of the White House. The First Lady has her own staff that includes the White House Social Secretary, a chief of staff, a press secretary, a chief floral designer, and an executive chef. The Office of the First Lady is an entity of the White House Office, which is part of the Executive Office of the President.