Separation of Powers: A Study of the Federal Government
Governmental power and functions in the United States rest in three branches of government: the legislative, judicial, and executive. Article 1 of the Constitution defines the legislative branch and vests power to legislate in the Congress of the United States. The executive powers of the President are defined in Article 2. Article 3 places judicial power in the hands of one Supreme Court and inferior courts as Congress sees necessary to establish.
Though in this system of a "separation of powers" each branch operates independently of the others. However, there are built in "checks and balances" to prevent tyrannous concentration of power in any one branch and to protect the rights and liberties of citizens. For example, the President can veto bills approved by Congress and the President nominates individuals to serve in the Federal judiciary; the Supreme Court can declare a law enacted by Congress or an action by the President unconstitutional; and Congress can impeach the President and Federal court justices and judges.
What are the responsibilities and duties of the President of the United States?
The President is the head of the Executive Branch. The powers of the President of the United States are set forth in Article II of the Constitution. Some of these powers the President can exercise in his own right, without formal legislative approval. Others require the consent of the Senate or Congress as a whole. The following is a list of duties of the President of the United States:
National Security Powers:
- Serves as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces. He can authorize the use of troops overseas without declaring war. To declare war officially, though, he must get the approval of the Congress.
- Makes treaties with other nations; however, the Senate must approve any treaty before it becomes official.
- Nominates ambassadors, with the agreement of a majority of the Senate.
- Receives ambassadors of other nations, thereby recognizing those lands as official countries.
- Presents information on the state of the union to Congress.
- Recommends legislation to Congress. Despite all of his power, the President cannot write bills. He can propose a bill, but a member of Congress must submit it for him.
- Convenes both houses of Congress in special sessions.
- Approves laws passed by Congress.
- "Take care that the laws be faithfully executed" -- Article II, Section 3
- Appoints the heads of each Executive Branch department as Chief of the Government. He also appoints ambassadors, Supreme Court Justices, and other officials, with the agreement of the majority of the Senate.
- Requests written opinions of administrative officials.
- Fills administrative vacancies during congressional recesses.
- Grants reprieves and pardons for Federal crimes (except impeachment).
- Appoints Federal judges, with the agreement of the majority of the Senate.
- defines and limits the power of the national government,
- defines the relationship between the national government and individual state governments, and
- guarantees the rights of the citizens of the United States.
|National Government||State Governments|
|National Government||State Governments|
What are the branches of national government and a brief description of their responsibilities?
The legislative branch of government has the authority to make laws for the nation. It was established in Article I of the Constitution with the creation of Congress.
Congress is bicameral, that is, it is made up of two chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives. This system was created by the Founding Fathers after much debate. Delegates to the Constitutional Convention from larger and more populated states wanted congressional representation to be based upon population. Fearing domination, delegates from smaller states wanted equal representation. The Great Compromise resulted in the creation of two houses, with representation based on population in one and with equal representation in the other.