The United States of America has a government built upon from its constitution that is separated into three different branches. The three branches are known as the executive branch, legislative branch and judicial branch. Each has different functions and powers within the government. The reason for that the government has been separated into three different branches is to ensure a separation of powers within the government. The three branches also have the ability to “check” the other branches to ensure that no singular branch has too much power. This feature of the government is known as checks and balances that safeguards the nation’s citizens’ rights. (Kelly)
The executive branch consists of the President of the United States and their advisors and other various departments and agencies within the United States. The executive branch is responsible for enforcing the laws of the United States. The president is sort of like the top police officer or military leader in the nation. Some agencies that the executive branch has under it are the White House, federal agencies like the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Central Intelligence Agency. Other independent federal commissions, like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), are under the executive branch’s direction. (United States House of Representatives ) The executive branch has the ability to check the legislative branch in multiple ways. The biggest check is the ability to veto Congress in laws they want to pass. The executive branch also has the power to call special sessions of Congress and can also advocate for legislation to be passed. It can also appeal to United States citizens with concerns over legislation. The executive branch also has checks over the judicial branch. The executive branch appoints judges to the United States Supreme Court and other federal courts. (Kelly)
The legislative branch is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate, which are collectively known as Congress. Each side is made up in different ways. In the House of Representatives each state is given a number of representatives based on the population of that state. In this case certain states have more representatives than others due to its size. The Senate is more streamlined as each state only has two senators. The legislative branch is tasked with making the laws of the land, declaring war and it regulates interstate and foreign commerce. It also controls taxing and the United States spending policies. (United States House of Representatives ) In terms of checks over the executive branch, the legislative branch also can check one of the executive branch’s checks. The legislative branch can override the presidential vetoes with a two-thirds vote. It also has the power to fund any executive actions. The legislative branch also has the power to remove the president by way of impeachment. The Senate approves treaties and presidential appointments. The legislative branch also creates the lower court systems and may also remove judges through impeachment also. The final check over the judicial branch is the Senate appointments judges. (Kelly)
Lastly, the judicial branch makes up the third branch of the United States government. This branch is made up of the United States Supreme Court and the Federal Judicial Center. The United States Constitution states “[t]he judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” (Constitution of the United States) What the judicial branch does is pretty simple, it upholds and interprets the laws of the land. What the judicial branch has in terms is unique. Once judges are appointment for life, they are free from interference from the executive branch. (United States House of Representatives ) The judicial branch can judge executive actions through judicial review. Judicial review is a power not granted through the United States Constitution but through the Supreme Court case “Marbury v Madison.” The judicial branch can also check the legislative branch by judging legislative acts to be unconstitutional. (Kelly)
These system of checks and balances has worked well since the inception of the nation. Each branch has enacted checks that it is, like presidential vetoes, legislative impeachment and judicial review. The whole purpose of this system of checks and balances was to ensure a balance within the government and this system has worked well over the years. There have been times when one branch has been more prominent over the other but overall there has been a consistent balance within the three branches of the government.
- Constitution of the United States. n.d. 27 April 2015. http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/constitution_transcript.html
- Kelly, Martin. Checks and Balances. n.d. 27 April 2015. http://americanhistory.about.com/od/usconstitution/a/checks_balances.htm
- United States House of Representatives . n.d. 27 April 2015. http://www.house.gov/content/learn/branches_of_government/