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Government Documents: Executive

Executive Branch

The executive branch carries out and enforces laws. It includes the president, vice president, the Cabinet, executive departments, independent agencies, and other boards, commissions, and committees.

Key roles of the executive branch include:

  • President—The president leads the country. He or she is the head of state, leader of the federal government, and Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces. The president serves a four-year term and can be elected no more than two times.
  • Vice president—The vice president supports the president. If the president is unable to serve, the vice president becomes president. The vice president can be elected and serve an unlimited number of four-year terms as vice president, even under a different president.
  • The Cabinet—Cabinet members serve as advisors to the president. They include the vice president, heads of executive departments, and other high-ranking government officials. Cabinet members are nominated by the president and must be approved by a simple majority of the Senate—51 votes if all 100 Senators vote.

President of the United States

The president of the United States is the head of state of the U.S., the chief executive of the federal government, and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The United States was the first nation to create the office of president as the head of state in a modern republic.

Requirements to Hold Office

According to Article II of the U.S. Constitution, the president must be a natural-born citizen of the United States, be at least 35 years old, and have been a resident of the United States for 14 years.

State of the Union Address 

The U.S. Constitution requires the president to give Congress a State of the Union, which is a report that addresses a president's legislative proposals and other plans for the country. There is no requirement stating what form or how often the report occurs; however, it normally occurs annually in the last week of January.

Vice President of the United States

The primary responsibility of the Vice President of the United States is to be ready at a moment’s notice to assume the Presidency if the President is unable to perform his duties.

The vice president will become president if:

  • The president dies
  • The president resigns
  • The president is temporarily incapacitated
  • The vice president and a majority of the Cabinet judge that the president is no longer able to discharge the duties of the presidency

 

The Vice President also serves as the President of the United States Senate, where he or she casts the deciding vote in the case of a tie. Except in the case of tiebreaking votes, the Vice President rarely actually presides over the Senate. Instead, the Senate selects one of their own members, usually junior members of the majority party, to preside over the Senate each day.

 

The Cabinet

The Cabinet is an advisory body made up of the heads of the 15 executive departments. Appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, the members of the Cabinet are often the President’s closest confidants. In addition to running major federal agencies, they play an important role in the Presidential line of succession — after the Vice President, Speaker of the House, and Senate President pro tempore, the line of succession continues with the Cabinet offices in the order in which the departments were created. All the members of the Cabinet take the title Secretary, excepting the head of the Justice Department, who is styled Attorney General.