Describe three types of unilateral actions that a president could take to accomplish their policy goals, but also why it is likely that a president would ‘prefer’ to work with Congress in the...

Describe three types of unilateral actions that a president could take to accomplish their policy goals, but also why it is likely that a president would ‘prefer’ to work with Congress in the creation of policy rather than act alone?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Presidents have many ways in which they can act unilaterally to promote their agenda in both foreign and domestic policy.  However, they will still prefer to work with Congress if they can because it gives them greater political support and it allows them to do more than they can do unilaterally.

Presidents have greater freedom of action in international affairs than in domestic affairs.  They can unilaterally use their powers as commander-in-chief to promote their foreign policies.  The second President Bush used these powers to mount the “surge” in Iraq in 2007.  President Obama has used these powers to reduce troop levels in Iraq and to step up the use of drones to attack enemies abroad.  Presidents can also use executive agreements with other countries instead of negotiating formal treaties that have to be ratified by the Senate.  An example of this is the deal that President Obama recently made with Iran on nuclear issues.

In domestic affairs, presidents can use executive orders to advance their agenda.  President Obama recently used an executive order to try to advance his immigration agenda.  He ordered the government not to deport certain large groups of illegal immigrants who would otherwise live under threat of being deported.

Even though presidents do have these powers, they would rather work through Congress when they can.  A president who gets Congress to pass a law does not have to look like he (or someday she) is trying to take too much power for himself.  A president who works with Congress appears to be working within the system and is less likely to be solely blamed if people do not like the laws that Congress passes.  In addition, presidents can only take most major actions by getting laws passed.  President Obama may want a cap-and-trade system for greenhouse gasses, but he cannot simply order that one be established because he does not have that authority.  For major changes in policy presidents must work with Congress.

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