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Long ago, when the Founding Fathers of the U.S. wrote the Constitution, they wanted to ensure that no one person in government had absolute power or authority. They had learned that such power was dangerous because of the years of oppression under the rule of the British monarchy. In hopes of protecting U.S. citizens, they designed a separation of powers -- three branches of government. Each branch has its own responsibilities, but all three segments work together in order to make sure the country runs smoothly. The combined efforts of these branches of government assure that the rights of U.S. citizens are protected.
The three branches of government are a system of checks and balances. A branch can use its authority to check the powers of the other two branches. This keeps authority balanced among the three branches of government. These three segments include the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch.
The legislative branch is in charge of making laws for the country. It is comprised of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate is made up of 100 members. Two senators from each state serve in the Senate and are elected for six-year terms.
In contrast, the House of Representatives is comprised of 435 members. States with large populations have many representatives, while states with small populations have fewer. Each representative serves a two-year term.
A second of the three branches of government called the executive branch ensures that all laws are obeyed by the people. The President of the United States is the head of this particular branch of government. Since the executive branch is responsible for such a huge task, the president is assisted by the Vice President, members of the Cabinet, and heads of other government agencies. The Vice President becomes President if the President can no longer perform the duties of the position while others members of the executive branch advise the president and help carry out policies.
Every government needs a judicial branch, a segment of government that interprets laws and determines how they should be applied to a variety of situations. The judicial branch determines whether laws go against the rules of the U.S. Constitution and is comprised of the court system. The highest court in the United States is the Supreme Court, where nine justices or judges serve in their role as interpreters of laws. The Chief Justice must be appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. Justices serve on the Supreme Court for life.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the three branches of the United States government?
The United States government is divided into three distinct branches: the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches. The Legislative branch, composed of the House of Representatives and the Senate, is responsible for making laws. The Executive branch, headed by the President, enforces laws. The Judicial branch, led by the Supreme Court, interprets laws and ensures they are applied fairly.
How do the three branches of the U.S. government check and balance each other?
The system of checks and balances is designed to ensure that no single branch of the U.S. government becomes too powerful. For example, the President can veto legislation passed by Congress (Legislative), but Congress can override a veto with a two-thirds majority. The Supreme Court (Judicial) can declare laws or executive actions unconstitutional, but judges are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
Who makes up the Legislative branch of the U.S. government?
The Legislative branch of the U.S. government is made up of two chambers: the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate consists of 100 senators, two from each state, serving six-year terms. The House of Representatives has 435 members, with the number from each state based on its population, serving two-year terms. Together, they draft, debate, and pass federal laws.
What is the role of the Executive branch of the U.S. government?
The Executive branch of the U.S. government is responsible for enforcing and implementing federal laws. It is headed by the President, who acts as the head of state and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. The branch also includes the Vice President, the President's Cabinet, and various executive departments and agencies that administer and regulate federal programs and policy.
How are judges to the U.S. Supreme Court chosen and what is their role?
Justices to the U.S. Supreme Court are nominated by the President and must be confirmed by the Senate. Once appointed, they serve lifetime terms, which helps to insulate them from political pressure. The Supreme Court's primary role is to interpret the Constitution and federal law, which includes the power to strike down laws or executive actions that they determine to be unconstitutional.