The most complete role of the Congress in the system of separation of powers is in the functions vested in it by the Constitution. Summarily, they may be represented as follows:
1. Adoption of the legislation;
2. Budget and Finance;
3. Formation of the executive and judiciary branches;
4. Control over the activities of the government apparatus;
5. Implementation of the quasi-judicial functions;
6. Regulation of intergovernmental relations.
In the lawmaking, Congress is involved in issuing bills (laws), resolutions and orders.
Bills, that after the approval by president or on overcoming his veto become laws (acts, statutes), are divided into public bills and private bills. The first are acts of general validity. The second are acts of individual application or local action.
Congress adopts three kinds of resolutions: joint, matching and simple. Joint resolutions do not differ from any bills in the order of their passing, nor by the nature of their regulation. Often, changes in applicable laws are introduced by a joint resolution; on the other hand, changes in the joint resolution are enacted by laws. Like bills, joint resolutions are passed for the signature to the president. Constitutional amendments projects also come in the form of joint resolutions. If approved by a two-thirds vote of both Houses, they are sent to state legislatures for ratification without the president’s approval.
Describing the legislative activity of the Congress, it’s being significantly influenced by the President must be pointed out. The president largely determines not only the legislative program, but also controls the entire legislative process. According to some estimates, the president or their subordinate bodies and persons introduce up to 30 percent of all bills to the Congress. Formally, the executive power does not have the right of legislative initiative. Only a senator or a member of the House of Representatives can introduce a draft law. However, this does not decrease the effectiveness of the initiatives coming from the president. Up to 50% of the drafts proposed by the executive power are approved by the Congress.
The most powerful means of influence by the president has always been a right of veto (rejecting the proposal entirely), which the Congress can overcome only by re-approving of the bill by a two-thirds majority. Often, only the threat of a veto forces the legislators to be more attentive to requests and comments from the president. This cautious position has sufficient grounds. Congress generally overcomes no more than three per cent of the presidential vetoes.
In Budget and finance sphere the Constitution strips the president of any authority. Only Congress has the power to impose and collect taxes, duties, and excises. Loans on behalf of the United States can also approved the Congress only. However, since 1921 budget preparation and later major financial bills delegated executive powers. In fact, it meant that the initiative was passed to the president, even though Congress retained sufficient weight. Legislators solve the issue of increasing, reducing or preventing appropriations requested by the executive powers.
Financial bills are passed in two forms. First comes a bill, which provides for the implementation of certain projects and their financing. However, no payments on the basis of this law are made. This requires the adoption of the Appropriation Bill, by which the Treasury is given an order for the allocation of the relevant sums of money. Both bills are submitted for the signature of the president, who can veto them.
Traditionally, the most effective means of control over the government apparatus has been the "power of the purse." Often, just the threat of cutbacks forces the president or the individual executive branches to listen more carefully to the demands of the Congress and to take into account the possible reaction their actions. Congress investigation committees that can look into governmental affairs is another proven instrument.
Until recently, the Congress could implement a legislative veto, which was an effective control mechanism. However, in 1983 the US Supreme Court recognized its use to be non-constitutional and nullified the provisions of a little less than 200 legislative acts of Congress.
Among quasi-judicial functions, the impeachment procedure is the one that affects the president, as well as judges and other officials of the executive branch. Questions of war and peace under the are entrusted to the Congress. The right to decide whether to join the military action was without reservation attributed to the competence of the Congress by the authors of the Constitution. Without it’s sanction the president could deploy troops to military action only to repel a sudden attack on the country and in the state of emergency. However, the Congress resorted to the formal declaration of war only in five cases. In all other cases, which according to American experts exceed 200 instances, the decision to use military force was made by the President alone.
Constitution gave the Congress broad control powers in the military sphere, through which it could limit the power of the president. But until the Vietnam War, none of these mechanisms have been applied. It was only after the Congress has taken a number of measures designed to limit the power of the president.
International treaties are concluded under the direct control of the President and sent for approval to the Senate. The process of ratification consists of two separate stages: first, the Senate approves treaties (giving advice and consent) by a majority of two thirds of the Senators; then the President decides at its discretion whether he should use the consent and ratify the treaty. The Senate plays an important role in this process. For example, the Senators rejected the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, which provided for the US participation in the League of Nations. Often when determining the contractual obligations the executive power is forced to account for the possible opposition in the Senate. The Senate can reject a contract, introduce amendments and reservations, or simply not consider it. International obligations of the United States are effected not only in the form of contracts, but also in the form of executive agreements that are not submitted to the approval of the Senate.
In general the power of the president has increased over years due to the process of delegation of power. The Congress gives away some of its leverage to improve the speed of reaction often required in the fast-paced world. One of the examples is the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security to counter terrorist threats (Ginsberg, et. al. 2014: 317). Also, presidents “seek to bolster their control of established executive agencies or to create new administrative institutions and procedures that will reduce their dependence on Congress” (Ginsberg, et. al. 2014: 322). There are more ways for presidents to act independently from the Senate. They can influence the legislation process by partisan institutions and “going public” (Ginsberg, et. al. 2014: 322). Government corporations are also considered institutions of the presidency. “As the framers of the Constitution predicted, presidential ambition has been a powerful and unrelenting force in American politics” (Ginsberg, et. al. 2014: 322). It seems that this kind of ambition is likely to increase and so is the breadth of the president’s power, because there definitely are means for the president to achieve it.
Ginsberg, Benjamin, Lowi, Theodore J., Weir Margaret, et all. We the People: An Introduction to American Politics (Ninth Essentials Edition). 2012. Web. PDF