The executive, legislative and judicial branches represent the constitutional framework envisioned by the Founding Fathers for our nation's government. Together, they function to provide a system of lawmaking and enforcement based on checks and balances, and separation of powers intended to ensure that no individual or body of government ever becomes too powerful. For example:
- Congress (legislative branch) can pass laws, but the president (executive branch) can veto them.
- Congress can override the president's veto.
- The Supreme Court (judicial branch) can declare a law approved by Congress and the president unconstitutional.
- The president can appoint judges to the Supreme Court, but Congress must approve them.
Is the system perfect? Are powers ever abused? Of course, but as governments go, ours has been working quite well since Sept. 17, 1787. As Alexander Hamilton and James Madison remind us in Federalist 51, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."
Recognizing the inherent moral paradox posed by a society in which mere mortals govern other mere mortals, Hamilton and Madison went on to write, "In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself."
The executive branch of the United States government consists of the president, the vice president and 15 Cabinet-level executive departments.
- The President of the United States
- Legislative Powers of the President
- Requirements to Serve as President
- About the President's Cabinet
- The Cabinet Agencies
- About the Electoral College
- President's Pay and Compensation
- Presidential Succession
- Protecting the President
Every society needs laws. In the United States, the power to make laws is given to Congress, which represents the legislative branch of government.
- The Powers of Congress
- The House of Representatives
- Requirements to be a U.S. Representative
- The Senate
- Requirements to be a U.S. Senator
- Salaries and Benefits of U.S. Congress Members
- How Bills Become Laws
- Congressional Committee System
- Sessions of Congress
- Why We Have a House and Senate
- The Great Compromise: Congress Created
The laws of the United States are a complex tapestry weaving through history, sometimes vague, sometimes specific and often confusing. It's up to the federal judicial system to sort through this web of legislation and decide what is constitutional and what is not.
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