Members of the executive and legislative branches of the United States government are in constant communication to perform the work of governing their country. These communications generally take the form of meetings, negotiations, and phone calls between staff members of the two respective branches. An executive communication goes beyond these informal contacts, however. It is an official message from a member of the executive branch to a specific legislator or committee within the legislative branch.
Most of the communication that takes place between the executive and legislative branches is not added to the official collection of proceeding transcripts, letters, and legislative drafts that constitute the Congressional Record. Every executive communication, on the other hand, is assigned a reference number when legislative branch receives it, and becomes part of the Congressional Record. Executive communications can come from the President, a member of the Presidential Cabinet, or the head of an independent agency.
These officials can use an executive communication to keep Congress appraised of the ongoing operations of different agencies. These can include everyday details, such as grants approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or contracts granted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Officials can also use executive communications to respond to requests for specific information that a member of congress, or a congressional committee, requested through official channels.
The U.S. Constitution explicitly reserves the powers of drafting legislation for the legislative branch alone. The executive branch can, however, suggest legislation for lawmakers to introduce as bills. When a member of the executive branch has such a suggestion, he or she typically sends it to a member of Congress through an executive communication. Such a message could contain language that is ready to be introduced into the law-making process as a bill, or a set of principles for the lawmaker to use in crafting one.
Another form of executive communication is one that most people are familiar with — the presidential veto. When a President vetoes a bill that Congress has passed and sent to the White House for his signature, the executive branch sends the bill back to Congress with a message stating the President's objections to the bill and why he vetoed it. When Congress officially receives this veto message, it acts as official notice that both chambers of Congress must vote again. The bill must receive a two-thirds majority in each chamber to override the presidential veto.