There are three branches of the federal government, the executive, the judicial, and the legislative. The executive branch consists of such people as the president, the cabinet, and the executive offices of the president. The executive branch is known for enforcing laws created by the legislative branch. The judicial branch entails the United States Supreme Court and the Federal Judiciary. The judicial branch must review the laws the executive branch is to enforce. There is also the legislative branch. This branch contains the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and the Library of Congress. Laws are created through the legislative branch.
The basic idea between the creation of the three branches is based upon “checks and balances.” No branch should become so powerful that it over-takes either of the other branches. This also brings out the point that neither one of these branches, nor any person holding office in one of them, can exercise power belonging to either of the others. The legislative branch creates the laws, the judicial branch reviews the law, and then the executive branch enforces the laws. All three branches are interrelated, each branch overlaps but serves separate purposes.
The main powers of the executive branch rest with the President of the United States of America. Powers granted to him by the constitution include serving as commander in chief of the armed forces; negotiating treaties; appointing federal judges, ambassadors, and cabinet officials; and acting as head of state. The president also has a cabinet that includes officials such as the attorney general and the secretaries of State, Treasury, Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Education, Energy, and Veterans Affairs. The president appoints the positions with the approval of the Senate.
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The powers of the judicial branch rest in the courts, which decide arguments about the meaning of laws, how they are applied, and whether they violate the Constitution. The latter power is known as judicial review and it is this process that the judiciary uses to provide checks and balances on the legislative and executive branches. However, judicial review is not an explicit power given to the courts, but it is an implied power. The judicial branch is established in Article III of the Constitution. The judicial branch consists of nine justices, including a chief justice, appointed for life terms by the president with the consent of the Senate. The court also serves as a trial court in cases involving foreign ambassadors, ministers, and consuls, and in cases where a U.S. state is a party.
The powers of the Congress are listed almost exclusively in the Constitution under Article I, Section 8 which state powers such as the right to declare war, the right to establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization, and the right to regulate commerce with foreign nations. Congress is also given the right to lay and collect taxes among other things. The House of Representatives has the greatest privileges of either the house or the senate. The House of Representatives has the power to impeach, or bring charges against, federal officials for misconduct. If no candidate in a presidential election wins a majority in the Electoral College, the House of Representatives elects the president. Congress also determines if a president is disabled and thus unable to continue in office. Congress can conduct investigations into any matter that affects its powers under the Constitution.
The power is divided between units of government such as the federal and state governments. Certain powers are expressed powers that are Constitutional or statutory powers expressly provided for by the Constitution or by congressional laws. Implied powers are the powers of the federal government that are implied by the expressed power in the Constitution. There are also inherent powers that the national government, although not expressly granted by the Constitution, are necessary to ensure the nation’s integrity and survival as a political unit. Some of the inherent powers include the power to make treaties and the power to wage war or make peace.
The national government’s inherent powers are few and far between, but they are important. The distribution of power has changed radically over the past 200 years. Since its ratification in 1788, there have been 27 amendments to the Constitution. The first 10 amendments, adopted in 1791 and known as the Bill of Rights, established a number of individual liberties, including speech, religion, the press, and the rights of the criminally accused. The Constitution is a “living document” which means that even though the nation changes, the basic principles set forth in the first 10 amendments will hold strong. The balance of power has changed dramatically over the last few centuries. Shifting from power centralized in the states to an equalized power in both the federal and state governments, the balance of power has certainly changed hands many different times.
In terms of the people’s will, the legislative branch is expected to be the most responsive. The legislative branch deals with the people, not directly, but in similar terms. The judicial branch could be considered the most democratic because the judicial branch is set-up to protect the people and their rights. While the legislative branch speaks for the people, the judicial branch protects the people. The executive branch does a combination of both the judicial branch and the legislative branch; however, it doesn’t focus solely on one power or the other. The executive branch works for the people, at the same time protecting the people. The executive branch has the power to veto bills and laws passed by Congress, and the executive branch sees the laws through. All the branches, however democratic, are set-up for the people and to carry out the public’s will. If any of the branches were unable to do so, the system would not have survived 200 years.
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