There are 3 Branches of the United States Government
The Legislative Branch,
The Executive Branch, and
The Judicial Branch.
This is how the United States Government Works
The federal government is equally divided into three separate branches by the Constitution of the United States of America, to make sure that no individual or group, will have more power than the other:
- The Legislative Branch – Makes the laws (Congress consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives)
- The Executive Branch – Carries out the laws (President, Vice President, Cabinet, most federal agencies)
- The Judicial Branch – Evaluates the laws (Supreme Court and other federal courts)
Here’s how each branch of government can change acts of the other branches:
- 1) Congress confirms or rejects the president’s nominees.
2) Congress can remove the president from office in only exceptional circumstances.
- 1) The president can veto legislation created by Congress.
2) The president nominates heads of federal agencies.
- 1) The Justices of the Supreme Court can overturn unconstitutional laws.
2) The Justices of the Supreme Court are also nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
Checks And Balances – The ability of each branch to respond to the actions of the other branches is called the system of Checks And Balances.
The legislative branch has 5 basic responsibilities:
1) To draft proposed laws,
2) To confirm or reject presidential nominations:
for heads of federal agencies,
3) Federal Judges,
4) And The Supreme Court.
5) The legislative branch also has the authority to declare war.
The legislative branch includes Congress (which consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives), plus special agencies and offices that provide their support and their services to Congress. The American citizens have their right to vote for their Senators and their Representatives through free, confidential ballots in fair elections in their districts.
- Senate – In the 50 states there are never more than two elected Senators per state, which means the total for Senators is always 100. A Senate term is six years and there is no limit to the number of terms an individual can serve. The Senate tends to respond more directly to issues of national, rather than local concern, though both houses of Congress participate in all aspects of legislation and policymaking.
- House of Representatives – Also referred to as a congressman or congresswoman, each representative is elected to a two-year term serving the people of a specific congressional district and there is no limit to the number of terms an individual can serve. The number of voting representatives in the House is fixed by law at no more than 435, proportionally representing the population of the 50 states. Currently, there are 5 additional non-voting delegates representing the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. A resident commissioner represents Puerto Rico. Learn more about representatives at The House Explained.
The executive branch carries out the laws and also enforces the laws. It includes
1) The President,
2) Vice President,
3) The Cabinet,
4) Executive Departments,
5) Independent Agencies,
5) And Other Boards,
7) And Committees.
The American citizens have their right to vote for the president and vice president through free, confidential ballots in fair elections in their districts.
Key roles of the executive branch include:
- President – The president of the United States of America leads the country. He or she is the
1) Head of State,
2) Leader of the Federal Government,
3) and Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces.
The president serves a
4) four-year term,
5) and can be elected no more than two times.
6) He or she has to at least be 35 years old,
7) A natural born citizen,
8) and resided in the United States for at least 14 years.
- Vice president – The vice president supports the president. If the president is ever unable to serve, then the vice president becomes president. The vice president can be elected and serve an unlimited number of four-year terms as vice president, even under a different president.
- The Cabinet – A council of high-ranking members in the government. Cabinet members serve as advisors to the president. They include
1) the vice president,
2) heads of executive departments,
3) and other high-ranking government officials.
Cabinet members are nominated by the president and must be approved by a simple majority of the Senate – 51 votes of all 100 Senators vote.
Executive Branch Agencies, Commissions, and Committees
Much of the work in the executive branch is done by
1) Federal Agencies,
4) And other groups.
- Executive Office of the President – The Executive Office of the president communicates the president’s message and deals with the federal budget, security, and other high priorities. To provide the President with the support needed to govern effectively, the Executive Office of the President (EOP), was created in 1939, by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The EOP has responsibility for tasks ranging from communicating the President’s message to the American people to promoting the trade interests abroad. Overseen by the White House Chief of Staff, the EOP has traditionally been home to many of the President’s closest advisors.
- Executive Departments – These are the main agencies of the federal government. The heads of these 15 agencies are also members of the president’s cabinet. Fifteen executive departments — each led by an appointed member of the President’s Cabinet — carry out the day-to-day administration of the federal government.
- Executive Department Sub-Agencies – These are smaller sub-agencies that support the specialized work within their parent executive department agencies.
- Independent Agencies – These agencies are not represented in the cabinet and are not part of the Executive Office of the president. They deal with government operations, the economy, and regulatory oversight.
- Boards, Commissions, and Committees – Congress or the president establish these smaller organizations to manage specific tasks and areas that don’t fall under parent agencies.
- Quasi-Official Agencies – Although they’re not officially part of the executive branch, these agencies are required by federal statute to release certain information about their programs and activities in the Federal Register, the daily journal of government activities.
The judicial branch
1) interprets the meaning of laws,
2) applies laws to individual cases,
3) and decides if laws violate the Constitution.
It’s comprised of the Supreme Court and other federal courts. Members of the Judicial Branch are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
- Supreme Court—The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States. The president nominates the Justices of the Supreme Court and the Justices must be approved by the Senate.
- Nine members make up the Supreme Court— a Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. There must be a minimum or quorum of six Justices to decide a case.
- If there is an even number of Justices and a case results in a tie, the lower court’s decision stands.
- There is no fixed term for Justices. They serve until their death, retirement, or removal in exceptional circumstances.
- Federal Courts and Judicial Agencies – The Constitution gives Congress the authority to establish other federal courts to handle cases that involve federal laws including tax and bankruptcy, lawsuits involving U.S. and state governments or the Constitution, and more. Other federal judicial agencies and programs support the courts and research judicial policy.
Confirmation Process for Judges and Justices
Appointments for Supreme Court Justices and other federal judgeships follow the same basic process:
- The president nominates a person to fill a vacant judgeship.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on the nominee and votes on whether to forward the nomination to the full Senate.
- If the nomination moves forward, the Senate can debate the nomination. Debate must end before the Senate can vote on whether to confirm the nominee. A Senator will request unanimous consent to end the debate, but any Senator can refuse.
- Without unanimous consent, the Senate must pass a cloture motion to end the debate. It takes a simple majority of votes—51 if all 100 Senators vote—to pass cloture and end debate about a federal judicial nominee.
- Once the debate ends, the Senate votes on confirmation. The nominee for Supreme Court or any other federal judgeship needs a simple majority of votes—51 if all 100 Senators vote—to be confirmed.
Infographic: How the Supreme Court Works
Learn how cases reach the Supreme Court and how the Justices make their decisions. Use this lesson plan in class.