Powers of the Executive Branch

Article II of the United States Constitution created the executive power, but failed to specifically define any of the “Executive Branch” characteristics that we are familiar with today – except for the President of the United States.

Article II, Section 1 states:

The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America.

Article II, Section 2 makes the first mention of executive “departments:”

[The President] may require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices…

And in the Appointment Power of the President, departments are again referred:

 [T]he Congress may by law vest the appointment of such inferior officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the courts of law, or in the heads of departments.

From these passages comes what is commonly referred to as the “Fourth Branch” of government – an administrative state that combines the powers of the other three branches to act as lawmaker, executor, and judge without such accountability as prescribed to the other branches by the Constitution.

Today, the United States government features a robust executive branch, including 15 executive departments, multiple executive agencies and independent agencies.