At AEI, Gary Schmitt and Joseph Bessette have a report titled “The First Congress Establishes the Unitary Executive.” Key points:
- Congress wrote the statutes establishing the new government’s Departments of Foreign Affairs, War, and Treasury, placing them under the president’s supervision and direction. Congress even gave the executive branch the lead in setting the country’s fiscal policies when it tasked the secretary of the Treasury with preparing plans pertaining to public revenue and credit.
- To ensure that the line of authority and responsibility went from department officials and their heads to the president and not (indirectly) to the Congress, Congress stipulated that the president had the authority to remove officials from their posts. Although this authority was not explicit in the Constitution, members argued it was implied in Article II’s vesting and take care clauses.
- Congress affirmed this removal power precisely because it believed it fully consonant with the Constitution’s language and logic. Some leading presidential scholars have argued that the majority of Congress viewed the placement of the removal authority as a matter of legislative discretion. However, a close examination indicates that a clear majority viewed the removal power as resting with the president.