Term of office
A president's term of office begins at noon on January 20 of the year following the election. This date, known as Inauguration Day, marks the beginning of the president's and vice president's four-year terms. Before assuming office, the president-elect is constitutionally required to take the presidential oath:
" I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
Presidents traditionally include "So help me God" at the end of the oath.
George Washington, the first president, set an unofficial term limit of two terms, which was generally followed by subsequent presidents as precedent. After the twelve-year presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was elected four times, but died shortly after beginning his fourth term, the Twenty-second Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, barring presidents from being elected more than twice, or once if they served more than half of another president's term. Prior to Roosevelt, several presidents had campaigned for a third term, but none were elected. Harry S. Truman, who was president at the time of the amendment's ratification and thus not subject to its terms, also briefly sought a third term before withdrawing from the 1952 race.
Since the amendment's ratification, three presidents have served two full terms: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. Richard Nixon was elected to a second term, but resigned before completing it; George W. Bush will become the fourth upon completion of his current term on January 20, 2009. Lyndon B. Johnson was the only president under the amendment to be eligible to serve more than two terms in total, having only served for 14 months following John F. Kennedy's assassination. However, he chose not to run in the 1968 election.
Removal from office
(From left) President George H.W. Bush, with former Presidents Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald R. Ford, and Richard Nixon at the dedication of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in 1991
Vacancies in the office of President may arise because of death, resignation, or removal from office. Articles One and Two of the Constitution allow the House of Representatives to impeach high federal officials, including the president, for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors", and give the Senate the power to remove impeached officials from office, given a two-thirds vote to convict. Two presidents have thus far been impeached by the House, Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Neither was subsequently convicted by the Senate; however, Johnson was acquitted by just one vote.
Per the Twenty-fifth Amendment, the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet may suspend the president from discharging the powers and duties of the office once they transmit a statement declaring the president's incapacity to discharge the duties of the office. to the Speaker of the House and the President pro tempore of the Senate. If this occurs, then the vice president will assume the powers and duties of President as Acting President; however, the president can declare that no such inability exists, and resume executing the Presidency. If the vice president and Cabinet contest this claim, it is up to Congress, which must meet within two days if not already in session, to decide the merit of the claim.
The United States Constitution mentions the resignation of the president but does not regulate the form of such a resignation or the conditions for its validity. By Act of Congress, the only valid evidence of the president's decision to resign is a written instrument declaring the resignation signed by the president and delivered to the office of the Secretary of State. The only president to resign was Richard Nixon on August 9, 1974; he was facing likely impeachment and possible subsequent conviction in the midst of the Watergate scandal. Just before his resignation, the House Judiciary Committee had reported favorably on articles of impeachment against him.
The Constitution states that the vice president is to be the president's successor in the case of a vacancy. If both the president and vice president are killed or unable to serve for any reason, the next officer in the presidential line of succession, currently the Speaker of the House, becomes acting president. The list extends to the President pro tempore of the Senate after the Speaker, followed by every member of the Cabinet in a set order.
Duties and powers
President George W. Bush delivering the 2007 State of the Union Address, with Vice President Dick Cheney and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi behind him
Main article: Powers of the President of the United States
The president is the chief executive of the United States, putting him at the head of the executive branch of the government, whose responsibility is to "take care that the laws be faithfully executed". To carry out this duty, he is given control of the four million employees of the vast executive branch, including one million active duty personnel in the military. Both the legislative and judicial branches maintain checks and balances on the powers of the president, and vice versa.
Various executive and judicial branch appointments are made by presidents, including presidents-elect. Up to 6,000 appointments may be made by an incoming president before he takes office, and 8,000 more may be made while in office. Ambassadors, judges of the federal court system, members of the Cabinet, and other federal officers are all appointed by the president, with the "advice and consent" of a simple majority of the Senate; appointments made while the Senate is in recess are temporary and expire at the end of the next session of the Senate. He may also grant pardons, as is often done just before the end of a presidential term.
In addition, while the president cannot directly introduce legislation, he can play an important role in shaping it, especially if the president's political party has a majority in one or both houses of Congress. While members of the executive branch are prohibited from simultaneously holding seats in Congress, they often write legislation and allow a member of Congress to introduce it for them. The president can further influence the legislative branch through the annual constitutionally mandated State of the Union Address, which outlines the president's legislative proposals for the comingyear. If Congress passes a bill that the president disapproves of, he may veto it; the veto can be overridden only by two-thirds of both houses of Congress, making it substantially more difficult to enact the law.
Perhaps the most important of all presidential powers is command of the armed forces as commander-in-chief. The framers of the Constitution took care to limit the president's powers regarding the military; Federalist Papers #69 writes in part:
" The President is to