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25 Surprising Things The U.S. President Cannot Do

Some people may try and lead you to believe that the fate of our world rests on who becomes US President. The power of the Presidency is not unlimited however. In fact, the whole US government is a system of checks and balances, and despite being in a very powerful position, the President’s abilities are surprisingly limited. Here’s a list of 25 things the President of the US can’t actually do.

25. They Aren’t Allowed To Drive

Although the President is one of the most powerful people in the world, current and former Presidents are strongly discouraged from driving, and when they do get the keys, it’s only in very controlled situations like cruising around a golf course.

24. Use Executive Orders To Do Anything They Want

In the 1950’s, President Truman tried to take control of the nation’s Steel Mills to prevent a strike. The Supreme Court determined that the president lacked the authority to seize control of the US steel industry. If the President oversteps his or her bounds of power, the people or Congress have a right to petition the Supreme Court to make a ruling on the Executive Order in question.

23. Cannot Use An iPhone

During an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel in 2015, President Obama explained that he still uses a blackberry because the President is not allowed to use any phone that contains a recording device.

22. Completely Open The Borders

Laws passed as far back as 1921 limit the number of immigrants legally allowed into the US each year. The President and Congress determine the maximum amount of refugees who will be allowed into the US each year.

21. Seize All Private Citizens’ Firearms

The President, or local police and military acting on his or her behalf, cannot seize any citizens firearms, even during a nationwide State of Emergency, without legal reason or cause.

20. Revoke Social Security Payments

Some presidential candidates may propose laws to increase Social Security payments or tax them differently, but these are all a part of a budget that must be approved by congress. Americans pay into the system, and when they retire, they get a monthly stipend. There’s lots of talk about “Social Security running out!” but that’s not projected to happen in 2037.

19. Completely Forgive Student Loan Debts

Even Obama’s loan forgiveness program requires most people to make 10-20 years worth of monthly payments before forgiving the remainder of their debt, and that’s only if you qualify. Student Debt isn’t going to magically disappear, regardless of who the president is.

18. Legalize Medical Marijuana

For Marijuana to be legalized it would have to be reclassified by the DEA from a Schedule 1 to a Schedule 2 drug. The DEA recently confirmed they are not planning to do that anytime soon. States however, still have the power to allow marijuana possession and use for medical and recreational use on a state by state basis.

17. Stop Deportations or Grant Amnesty to All Illegal Immigrants

President Obama himself has tried to place a temporary ban on deportations of illegal immigrants living in the US via Executive Order, which was inevitably blocked by the Supreme Court.

16. Make Gay Marriage Illegal Again

In June 2015, The Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is a constitutional right. In order for that to change, there would need to be a challenge in lower courts brought up to the Supreme Court once again to make another ruling with different members.

15. Earn Outside Income

Any investments a President owns go into a blind trust until he or she leaves office.

14. Break The Law

The President, like everyone else, is subject to the laws of the land such as not lying under oath. If the President does break those laws, the House has the right to vote for Impeachment, and the Senate has the right to try those cases like a typical court.

13. Alter Welfare Programs

Welfare reform of any kind must be passed through as a law or as part of a budget, meaning it must be approved by Congress first. While the president can propose these laws, he alone cannot enact or enforce them. Congress consists of two parts: The Senate, and The House Of Representatives. Each state also has it’s own individual Congress to vote on statewide issues.

12. Shut Down the Government

The government shutdown that occurred in October of 2013 was the result of a Republican controlled House and a Democratic controlled Senate being unable to agree on a budget. The President did not and could not start it or end it.

11. Enact Trade Policy

There is a fast track for the President to write trade policy, but it still has to be passed through Congress. Fast tracking simply means Congress cannot amend the policy; they can only vote yay or nay. According to the Constitution, Congress is the body of the government that controls tariffs.

10. Authorize Additional Funding for NASA

While the president can propose acts and budgets and talk about goals for space travel, the power of NASA funding lies with Congress like all other budgetary issues.

9. Repeal Or Replace the Affordable Care Act

Since the Affordable Care Act law has already passed, any changes would need to be proposed as a bill, which would then have to be passed through Congress.

8. Declare War

The power to declare war actually rests solely with Congress. It is not shared with The President, though the sitting President must sign the official Declaration of War.

7. Change the Tax Code

Any kind of tax reform has to go through Congress before becoming a law. Even then, it can be years before it takes effect.

6. Change the Constitution

The US constitution can only be changed via a Constitutional Amendment, which can be initiated by a State or by Congress, but it must have a two-thirds vote in Congress before going on to the States, after which it must have three-fourths of the states agreement on the proposed Amendment. In other words, the majority of elected Representatives at a Federal and State level must agree to pass the Amendment. At this point in our history, this has only happened 27 times.

5. Repeal or Enforce Any Federal Standard for Education Including Common Core

States have an individual power to adopt or reject any federal education guidelines such as “No Child Left Behind” or Common Core. While this can affect any federal funding they receive, each individual state has the right to opt into federal standards or keep their own.

4. Alter Policies on a Local Level

If you care about local taxes, your police department, school district policies, green initiatives in your area, or drug legalization, you’ll want to make sure you vote down ballot because the more local the issue, the further down the ballot it will be. Your city’s Chief of Police, head of the School Board, or statewide green energy laws may affect your day to day life just as much as who’s elected President.

3. Legalize Or Criminalize Abortion Any Controversial Medical Procedure Including Abortion

Choices for allowing or banning things like abortion and medically assisted suicide rests with the individual States, not the Oval Office.

2. Choose Members of the US Supreme Court On Their Own

The Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment, which means that once appointed, a Judge is in for the rest of his or her life unless they choose to retire. Having to replace members is a relatively rare but serious matter as they tend to hold position longer than the President. Judge Antonin Scalia, who passed away early in 2016, was appointed by Ronald Reagan and approved by the Senate in 1986. The President does have the job of nominating someone, but that nomination has to be approved through the Senate which has the power to reject a Presidential nomination.

1. Interpret Laws or The Constitution

Does the 1st amendment include free speech on the internet? That judgment is not up to the President. It’s actually up to the Supreme Court Of The United States. This is the highest court in the nation and it has the final say on interpreting what a law means.

Now, Onto What The President CAN Do…

Here’s a list of powers the US President can execute.

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