Executive Power

Executive Power

This unit in the No. 86 video series explores a host of questions relating to the scope of Executive Power, from the time of the Founding to modern-day debates on that question.

The lack of an Executive was a key weakness of the Articles of Confederation, but our Framers, knowing the danger of executive power as exercised by King George III, were reluctant to vest too much power in one office. What were their biggest fears?  How does the American Executive borrow and break from the power of the King of England?

We have heard of the impious doctrine in the old world, that the people were made for kings, not kings for the people. Is the same doctrine to be revived in the new, in another shape…?

-Federalist No. 45

This unit also explores the core purpose and function of the Executive, including how the power of the President fits into the separation of powers.

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4 of 13: Who is an Officer of the United States? [No. 86]

Is it possible to have officers of the United States selected in a merit-based way? Professor Jennifer Mascott explores the tension between two competing ideas about who is an ‘officer of the United States’ under the Appointments Clause of the ... Is it possible to have officers of the United States selected in a merit-based way?

Professor Jennifer Mascott explores the tension between two competing ideas about who is an ‘officer of the United States’ under the Appointments Clause of the US Constitution. Should officers be selected via political appointment, or via a merit-based process?

Merit-based hiring system started with the Pendleton Act, in the late 1800s, and over time there have been greater numbers of civil servants hired as ‘independent experts’ in a non-partisan fashion, not as political appointees selected by the President.

The Constitutional question comes to a head today: How many merit-based criteria can be used in political appointments before the appointment no longer qualifies as a constitutional appointment?

Jennifer Mascott is an Assistant Professor of Law at the Antonin Scalia Law School. Professor Mascott writes in the areas of administrative and constitutional law.

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As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.

These videos were filmed when Jennifer Mascott was a professor at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School. Her views are entirely her own.

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