3 Branches Of Government
The Founding Fathers of our nation and framers of the United States Constitution designed our guiding document consisting of 3 Branches of Government: The Executive Branch; Legislative Branch and Judicial Branch. Their vision for the New World of these United States of America was to create a unique Constitutional Representative Republic free from Tyranny.
~United States Constitution~
Three Branches Of Government
- U.S. Senate
- House of Representatives
Separation of Powers with Checks and Balances
The Framers knew in order to create and sustain a Government of the people, by the people it was imperative the structure be designed consisting of three branches that would function as co-equals with Separation of Powers.
This would create the necessary Checks and Balances on one another and assure the protection of the peoples liberty, a protection that a single body
of Federal Government would never be able to amass sole power over the citizenry, which by
"The great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary."
~ Federalist Paper 51
Thus the misconception a lot of U.S. Citizens have today is that the Three branches of Government can be drawn in a pyramid like design, with the Executive Branch at the top and other branches below, granting the U.S. President with the most power. Fortunately this is not the case, though the Presidency has progressively adopted significant power by Presidential executive orders.
But the true power lies in the U.S. Constitution which mandates the Three Branches of Government as being co-equals and the peoples vigilance in it's protection. Integral to this system is the peoples right to vote in fair and equitable elections.
Most importantly It is crucial that the citizenry be comprised of an informed, engaged electorate, who will hold accountable the men and women they elect into public office to represent and serve them. And to insure the elected, as they were sworn under oath to do, support and defend the U.S. Constitution.
dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the
government." ~ Federalist Paper 51
Quick Facts about the U.S. Constitution
- The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the United States
- The Constitution replaced The "Articles of Confederation" the previous law of the land.
- The Constitution was signed into law on September 17, 1787
- The Bill of rights are the first Ten amendments to the Constitution
- There are 17 additional amendments to the U.S. Constitution a total of 27.
- An amendment to the U.S. Constitution can be proposed in one of two ways:
1. Both houses of Congress must vote to amend with a two-thirds majority.
A Constitutional Convention of the State Legislatures calls for an
amendment with a two-thirds vote. (No amendment in American history
thus far has been proposed by this method)
- In order for a
constitutional amendment to become law, and officially part of the U.S.
Constitution It must be ratified "authorized" by at least a
three-fourths vote of all 50 states in the union. (A Minimum of 38
What Does the Legislative Branch Do?
Described in detail of Article I of the U.S. Constitution The Legislative Branch makes our nations laws. It is represented by the U.S. Congress which consists of two bodies of Government, The U.S. Senate and the House of representatives.
Facts about the U.S. Congress
- Congress does the peoples business at the U.S. Capitol Building,
in Washington D.C. The Senate chamber is located in the Northern side of
the Capitol and the House Chamber is located in the Southern side.
- The U.S. Congress is the only body of Government that can "Declare War" per Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution.
- The Congress collects and levy's taxes.
- The Congress can over turn a Presidents veto "rejection" of a bill with a two-thirds vote, making it law. One of the effective "checks and balances" of power, of the Executive Branch by the Legislative Branch.
Facts about the U.S. House of Representatives
- The leader of the House of Representatives is the Speaker of the House. The Speaker decides which bills will come to the floor for a House vote.
- The Speaker of the House is the 3rd in line of Succession to the Presidency following the U.S. Vice President.
- To serve in the House of Representative you must be at least 25 years of age, been a U.S. Citizen for seven years and must when elected be an occupant of that State in which elected.
- There are currently 435 House of Representatives, determined by each
states population. Each state is afforded at least one representative
regardless of population and Census is taken every 10 years to determine
how many representatives will be proportioned to each State. Some
states could gain an additional representative while others could lose
- The term for House Representative is 2 years with no term limits.
- In addition to the 435 House member for the U.S. States there are six members representing U.S. Territory's.
Special Powers of the House of Representatives
- The House of Representatives is the only body of Government with the power to Impeach the U.S. President and other civil officers. The House of Representatives have impeached only two U.S. Presidents in History.
The House Impeached Andrew Johnson and impeached Bill Clinton but they were not removed from office by the U.S. Senate.
- The House of Representative can elect a U.S. President if no candidate received a majority of Electoral College votes.
- The House of Representatives has the power of the purse and starts monetary bills. (Any bill that requires spending of the tax payers money).
Facts about the U.S. Senate
- The U.S. Vice President is the leader of the Senate. Referred to as the President Pro Tempore, his only real role in the Senate is to be the tie breaking vote when necessary.
- To serve in the U.S. Senate you must be at least 30 years of
age, been a U.S. Citizen for nine years and must when elected be an
occupant of that State in which elected.
- The Senate has 100 Senators, 2 from each of the 50 states
- The term for a U.S. Senator is 6 years. One third is up for re-election every two years with no term limits.
Special powers of the U.S. Senate
- The Senate is the only body of Government with the authority to conduct a trial and convict a U.S. President, removing him from office for Presidential Impeachment criminal charges.
- The Senate approves or disapproves the U.S. Presidents nominations to the U.S. Supreme court, other Federal Judges, Cabinet members, Ambassadors and many civil government workers. (An effective "checks and balances" of power, of the Executive Branch by the Legislative Branch. In this case the U.S. Senate.
What Does the Executive Branch Do?
The Executive Branch of our Government executes laws passed by the U.S. Congress. It consists of the U.S. President at the helm, along with the Vice President and Cabinet members. The Current Executive leaders are President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.
- A President can sign into law a bill passed by Congress
- A President can Veto "reject" a bill passed by Congress
- Enforce the laws that are passed by Congress
- Grant pardons
- Appoint U.S. Ambassadors
What a President Can Not Do?
- Make or re-write laws
- Choose what part of a law is to be or not be enforced
- Declare War against another nation
- Interpret the constitutionality of Laws
- Make treaties without the consent of the Senate
- Choose Cabinet members without the approval of the Senate
- Appoint Supreme Court Justices without Senate confirmation
Facts about the U.S. Presidency
- The U.S. President is the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Military and the Leader of the Executive Branch.
- The Term of a U.S. President is 4 years with a current two term maximum. Franklin D. Roosevelt served the longest in U.S. History, elected to a fourth term when the U.S. Constitution did not include term limits on an elected U.S. President. However, the U.S. constitution was changed in 1951 with the ratification of the 22nd Amendment. Harry Truman was the last President eligible to run for a 3rd term, as he was the sitting President at the time of the amendment proposal but he declined.
- Also included in the 22nd Amendment was the maximum of 10 years a U.S. President can serve. In the event a Vice President succeeds to the Presidency in order to serve the remainder of a vacant office, with less than two years remaining on the term, he/she can still serve two additional 4 year terms.
For example: In 1923 President Warren Harding Died with about 2 years and 5 months into his first term, less than 2 years remaining. Vice President Calvin Coolidge succeeded to the Presidency and served out the rest of Harding's term as the 30th U.S. President. In 1924 Coolidge was elected to the Presidency and served four more years. In 1927 Coolidge made the decision not to run for re-election, but had he ran and won, he would have served an additional 4 years.
A similar case in 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Vice President Lyndon Johnson succeeded to the Presidency, finished out Kennedy's remaining term, was elected to a 4 year term, but dropped out of the race for a 2nd term.
- To become a U.S. President he or she must meet the age requirement of at least 35 years old.
- The Candidate for the Presidency must also be a natural born citizen.
- and a resident of the United States for at least 14 years.
- If the U.S. President is unable to perform the duties as President, the Vice President will succeed to the Presidency. And In cases where both the President and Vice Presidents positions are vacated, the Speaker of the House will succeed to the Presidency.
Cabinet Secretary Posts
(by Succession to the Presidency)
- Secretary of State
- Secretary of Treasury
- Secretary of Defense
- Attorney General/ Justice Department
- Secretary of the Interior
- Secretary of Agriculture
- Secretary of Commerce
- Secretary of Labor
- Secretary of Health and Human Services
- Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
- Secretary of Transformation
- Secretary of Energy
- Secretary of Education
- Secretary of Veterans Affairs
- Secretary of Homeland Security
What Does the Judicial Branch Do?
The Judicial Branch consists of the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest Federal Court in the nation followed by lower federal courts.
Per Article III of the U.S. Constitution the Supreme Court interprets laws and is the final word on the Constitutionality of a said law. and also the constitutionality of the actions of the U.S. President. (A "checks and balances" of power of the Executive and Legislative Branches by the Judicial Branch).
The Supreme Court does not have to hear every case brought to them and the court is very selective. It is entirely within the justices discretion which cases they will hear and ultimately rule on it's constitutionality.
The Supreme Court also settles disputes between two or more States.
Facts about the Supreme Court
- There are nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices. One designated as the Chief Justice.
- The term of a Supreme Court Justice is for Life
- A Supreme Court Justice is nominated by the U.S. President and must be confirmed by the Senate with a 51 majority vote to be confirmed. (A "checks and balances" of power, of the Executive Branch by the Legislative Branch. In this case the Senate)
For more Supreme Court Facts >>>
Back to top of 3 Branches Of Government Page
Back to American Presidents History Home Page