Executive Branch

By: Lester Kraft and Trent Lindsey

Federal Executive

Federal:

  • has the power make treaties with Senate approval. He or she can also receive ambassadors and work with leaders of other nations.
  • is responsible for nominating the heads of governmental departments, which the Senate must then approve. In addition, the president nominates judges to federal courts and justices to the United States Supreme Court.
  • can issue executive orders, which have the force of law but do not have to be approved by congress.
  • can issue pardons for federal offenses.
  • can convene Congress for special sessions.
  • can veto legislation approved by Congress. However, the veto is limited. It is not a line-item veto, meaning that he or she cannot veto only specific parts of legislation, and it can be overridden by a two-thirds vote by Congress.
  • delivers a State of the Union address annually to a joint session of Congress.

State Executive

State:

Governors, all of whom are popularly elected, serve as the chief executive officers of the fifty states and five commonwealths and territories.


As state managers, governors are responsible for implementing state laws and overseeing the operation of the state executive branch. As state leaders, governors advance and pursue new and revised policies and programs using a variety of tools, among them executive orders, executive budgets, and legislative proposals and vetoes.


Governors carry out their management and leadership responsibilities and objectives with the support and assistance of department and agency heads, many of whom they are empowered to appoint. A majority of governors have the authority to appoint state court judges as well, in most cases from a list of names submitted by a nominations committee.


Although governors have many roles and responsibilities in common, the scope of gubernatorial power varies from state to state in accordance with state constitutions, legislation, and tradition, and governors often are ranked by political historians and other observers of state politics according to the number and extent of their powers. Ranking factors may include the following.


  • Qualifications and tenure
  • Legislative—including budget and veto—authority
  • Appointment sovereignty

Although not necessarily a ranking factor, the power to issue executive orders and take emergency actions is a significant gubernatorial responsibility that varies from state to state.

Both the President in the federal executive branch and the governor in the state executive branch have the authority over armed forces.