Conflict Between the Executive and Legislative Branches of Government

Powerful Essays
American politics is often defined by a continuing power conflict between the executive and the legislative branches of the government. This struggle for political power between the two stronger branches of the three is inherent in the Constitution, itself. The concepts of separation of powers and checks and balances ensure that the branches of government will remain in conflict and provide a balance that keeps the entire government under control. As it was first established, the executive branch was much smaller and weaker than as we know it today. Consequently, the legislative branch was unquestionably dominant. Over the course of history, the executive branch grew in both size and power to the point where it occasionally overtook the legislative and today rivals the legislative in a much closer political battle. Today both branches have major factors that contribute to their power, but on the whole the legislative remains the lastingly dominant branch.

Several aspects of the executive branch give the presidency political power. The president’s biggest constitutional power is the power of the veto (Romance, July 27). This is a power over Congress, allowing the president to stop an act of Congress in its tracks. Two things limit the impact of this power, however. First, the veto is simply a big “NO” aimed at Congress, making it largely a negative power as opposed to a constructive power (July 27). This means that the presidential veto, while still quite potent even by its mere threat, is fundamentally a reactive force rather than an active force. Second, the presidential veto can be overturned by two-thirds of the House of Representatives and Senate (Landy and Milkis, 289). This means that the veto doesn’t even necessarily hav...

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...utive branch to gain an amount of power it had never had before. Despite this, Congress retains the benefits of that original constitutional favor and the battle for supremacy between the legislative and the executive branches has become a close one. The legislative branch, however, has a stability of power stemming directly from the Constitution that allows it to remain steadily powerful regardless of circumstances. The executive branch is much more susceptible to the effects of the times and the nature of the people elected to the office. This stability of power makes Congress unquestionably the lastingly dominant branch of American government.

Works Cited

Landy, Marc and Sidney M. Milkis. American Government: Balancing Democracy and Rights. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2004.

Romance, Joseph. Political Science 6 class lectures. Drew University, Summer 2004.
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