In 1787, the leaders of the states gathered to write the Constitution. They wanted a strong and fair national government. They did not want one person or one group of people to have too much power. While under control of the British, they learned having too much power could cause trouble. So, the delegates wrote the Constitution to provide separation of powers which is the three separate branches of government. This separation balances the branches and keeps any of them from growing too powerful. The branches are called the Legislative branch, the Executive branch and the Judicial branch.
Each branch has its own responsibilities and at the same time they work together to make the country run smoothly and to assure that the rights of citizens are not ignored The Legislative branch, also known as the Congress, is separated into two parts. There are the Senate and the House of Representatives. This branch’s main job is to make laws. They also confirm Presidential appointment, approve treaties, grant money and declare war. There are 100 senators in the Senate, two from each state. They must be at least 30 years old and must be citizens for nine years.
Senators are elected by their states and serve six year term. There are 435 representatives in the House of Representatives. The number is determined by the state’s population. Some states have just one representative while others may have as many as 53. The Congress permanently fixed the size of the House of Representatives at 435 in 1929. The representatives must be 25 years old and a citizen for at least seven years. The Legislative branch is important because pretty much anyone could write the laws, but only members of the Congress can write the official ones. Only this branch can make new laws or change existing ones.
The government also needs someone to make people obey the laws that the Legislative branch had stated. So, there is the Executive branch. The Executive branch includes a President and a Vice President. Executive branch enforce laws. They also propose and administer the laws, command armed forces, appoint ambassadors and other officials, conduct foreign policy and make treaties. The President and the Vice President must be 35 years old, natural born citizens and a resident for 14 years. The Vice President’s primary responsibility is to be ready in case the president is unable to perform his duties.
This can be because of the president’s death or resignation. Americans elect them every four years. We do not elect the President and the Vice President themselves though. They are selected by the Electoral College. Electors are selected by popular vote in each state. When voting for the President and Vice President, you are actually voting for the electors. In total, there are 538 electors, corresponding to the 435 members of the House of Representatives, 100 senators and three additional electors from the District of Columbia. Then there are the Cabinets. The Cabinet is made up of the heads of the 15 major departments of the government.
They are nominated by the President and confirmed. Their main job is to advise the President on matters relating to the duties. They are usually the President’s closest and most trusted advisors. They attend weekly meetings with the President. Here are some fun facts about out Presidents. James Garfield, the 20th president, was the first left-handed president. And Millard Fillmore, the 13th president, was the first President to have a stepmother. Our last branch, the Judicial branch, is also known for the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the land.
Their job is to interpret laws and the Constitution. The nine members of the Supreme Court are called Justices. There are eight Associate Justices and one Chief Justice. They are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. They serve no fixed term. They serve until their death, retirement or conviction by the Senate. They can only be removed through impeachment. Also, the Constitution does not specify the qualifications of a Supreme Court Justice other than that they need to be trained in the law. There is nothing specific like age, profession, education or native-born citizenship.
For example, in 1941, James F. Byrnes was appointed to the Supreme Court without attending any law school or graduating from high school. He taught himself. Now, here are some fun facts about our judicial branch. The Supreme Court does not allow any television or other cameras in the courtroom. William Howard Taft is the only person to have served both as a president and as a member of the Supreme Court. The system of checks and balances is an important part of the Constitution. The purpose of this system is to limit the powers of other branches. This way, no one branch becomes too powerful.
Each branch checks the power of the other branches to make sure that the power is balanced between them. First, the Legislative branch can check on the Executive branch by rejecting appointments and treaties, impeaching the president or overriding a veto. The Legislative branch can check on the Judicial branch by proposing Constitutional Amendments to overrule judicial decisions, impeaching Supreme Court justices and rejecting appoint to the Supreme Court. Next, the Executive branch can check the Legislative branch by adjourning Congress in certain situations and vetoing bills.
The Executive branch can check on the Judicial branch by appointing judges. Lastly, the Judicial branch can check on the Legislative branch by declaring that the laws are unconstitutional. And the Judicial branch can check the Executive branch by declaring Executive actions unconstitutional. The separation of power in the government is very necessary. When a single person or group has a large amount of power, they can become dangerous to the citizens. The separation of power is a great way to limit the power and checks and balances can help check the limitation.