The founding fathers of the United States, our framers of the US constitution, wanted to form a government that did not allow one person to have too much authority or control. While under the rule of the British king they learned that a monarchy with absolute power was an unfair and oppressive system. With this in mind the framers wrote the constitution to provide for separation of powers, or three branches of government. Later our government leaders learned from the articles of confederation that there was a need for a strong centralized government. Each branch has grown to encompass a variety of unique responsibilities today, and at the same time work together to make the country run smooth and to assure that the rights of citizens are not ignored. A system of checks and balances ensures one branch does not become too powerful. The three branches of the United States government are legislative, executive, and judicial.
The legislative branch consists of Congress. Congresses main purpose is to create laws and legislation. Congress also over sees the execution of these laws, and checks the judicial and executive branches through legislation.
The House of Representatives and the Senate make up congress. The House of Representatives also known as the house contains four hundred and thirty five members. Based on the population of the fifty states, representatives are allocated to the house with at least one representative for each state. The population and the amount of representatives for each state are recalculated once every ten years. States with more than one representative are divided into equal sized districts, each of which elects a representative. Representatives to the house serve two year terms and are reelected on even numbered years. The members of the House of Representatives elect a speaker of the house who presides over the house.
The second part of congress known as the Senate is made up one hundred members. Each state, regardless of population, elects two senators to congress. Senators are elected for six year terms, with only one third of the members being reelected every two years. For legislation to become a law both the senate and house must ratify. The senate has the same legislative power as the house with the exception of legislation pertaining to taxation. These bills may only originate in the house. On the other hand the senate has the power of advice and concent, which is the power to appoint to executive and judicial positions, and to declare war.
The Executive Branch consists of the president, vice president and other elected and appointed executives. The executive branch, headed by the president, administrates laws passed by congress. Registered voters with at least eighteen years of age, elect the president and vice president in general elections every four years. The president appoints his cabinet members and has the power to remove them along with the secretaries or heads of the various executive branch departments. The cabinet is a group of presidential advisors comprised of the heads of fifteen departments of the executive branch. He also has the power to veto laws passed by congress. The president serves as the commander in chief of the armed forces. In addition as the head of state he enforces the legislation passed by congress.
The Judicial Branch is comprised of the court system with the Supreme Court having the highest authority. The function of the judicial branch is to try both criminal and civil cases by interpreting the constitution and laws passed by congress. The lower number of judges and structure of the lower courts is dictated by law, not the constitution. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the judicial branch and has the final say on the constitutionality of all cases. Once the Supreme Court rules no other person or entity can overturn its decision. The Supreme Court is composed of nine judges, eight known as associate justices, and one chief justice. Supreme court judges have no term limits. When one decides to retire a new one is nominated by the president and approved for duty by the senate. The judges are nominated by the president and approved by the senate. Because the judicial branch interprets the laws and constitution, it has the power to declare a law unconstitutional. In this way the judicial branch plays a part in creating the laws of the United States.
Each branch is theoretically equal to each other, and checks each other’s powers through the system of checks and balances. Via this system no branch should be able to gain an unproportionate amount of power and influence. Each branch has unique tasks regarding the law making process. The system of checks and balance keeps one branch from running away with the law making process and negating the rights of civilians. For example the legislative branch of the government can make bills, but the executive branch may veto them. The executive branch may veto the bills, but the legislative branch may override the veto. This shows that the battle for agreement is how all three branches of government work together to perform the duties of the government.