The Three Branches of Government
In order to escape the tyranny the colonists felt existed in other governmental systems, a government made up of three branches was outlines: legislative, judicial, and executive. Each of these branches operates independently, but not exclusively. This ensures that the system remains free of tyranny through a series of checks and balances, in which no one can gain too much power.
The legislative branch of governments is made up of Congress, which consists of two parts, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senates contains two representatives from each state – equal representation from each – and the House of Representatives is made up of members of which the number is determined by the population of each state.
The Judicial branch of government is the Supreme Court. This is the highest court in the US. The Supreme Court has 9 Justices, appointed by the President, and agred to by the Senate. The Supreme Court has the responsibility of interpreting the law, overseeing the execution of the law, and determining the Constitutional integrity of the law. Determining whether a law violates the Constitution is a process of judicial review. Supreme Court rulings are final – the only way to overturn it is by amending the Constitution. The Supreme Court also serves as a mediator between the branches of government.
The Executive Branch of government is that of law enforcement. Topping this branch is the President.
There are specific qualifications and restrictions to the office of the President. They are as follows:
•Must be 35 years of age or older •Must be a native citizen of the United States •Must have resided in the United States for no less than 4 years. •The term of Presidency is 4 years, and no one can hold office for more than 2 terms (4 years). This is part of the check and balance system.
The President has many powers, but they are not exclusive. Oftentimes the President requires the agreement of Congress or Senate to utilize certain powers. The powers of the President include the following:
•Commander-in-chief of armed forces. The President can mobilize them, but must have Congressional approval to declare war. •The President forms foreign treaties that must have Senatorial approval before they are considered officially binding. •The President acknowledges valid countries by accepting their ambassadors. •The President delivers the State of the Union address before Congress. •The President cannot create bills for submission to Congress, but CAN suggest a bill. •The President calls for meetings of the Houses of Congress for unique sessions. •The President approves laws that have been passed through Congress. •The President ensures laws are delivered and adhered to. •With the Senate majority, the President hires government officials such as the Supreme Court justices, ambassadors, and heads of Executive branch offices. •The President receives reports from government officials. •The President completes administration when Congress is in recess. •The President grants pardons for federal crimes. •With Senate majority, the President hires Federal judges.
In addition to all this, the President has a say in lawmaking that can make or break bills passed into laws by Congress. Once a bill is accepted it is sent on to the President, who can approve the bill, leading to the bill becoming a law – or he can veto it. The President can return a bill to Congress without his/her signature or the President can “pocket” a bill. When “pocketing” a bill, the Congress can pass the law after a period of 10 days; but if Congress is not in session, the bill is rejected and a pocket veto has been exercised. If Congress wishes to refute a veto, this can be done if a 2/3 vote of both the Senate and the House of Representatives rules for the bill, and against the veto.
Finally, if the President cannot serve the full term of office due to death, extreme illness, imprisonment, or impeachment, there is an order of succession to replace the President. The order of succession is as follows:
Speaker of the House
President Pro Tempore of the Senate
Secretary of State
Secretary of Treasury
Secretary of Defense
Secretary of the Interior
Secretary of Agriculture
Secretary of Commerce
Secretary of Labour
Secretary of Health & Human Services
Secretary of Housing & Urban Development
Secretary of Transportation
Secretary of Energy
Secretary of Education
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Secretary of Homeland Security
Our system of dispersed power has worked to create a government of unity and cohesion, but not one of corrupting exclusive power or dictatorship.