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The operation of the US government is based on the US Constitution that was adopted by Congress in 1789. A key feature of the US Constitution is federalism, an original idea for power sharing between states on the one hand, and the national government on the other. Another major feature of the Constitution is the principal of separation of powers within the national government, with separate legislative, executive, and judicial branches.

The government of the United States is truly national in character. It can deal with the people of the country directly, not just indirectly through the states. This is certain powers such as the powers to make war and deal with other nations are granted exclusively to the national government and are denied to the states. Still others such as law enforcement and taxing powers overlap and can be exercised by both the national and the state governments.

The delegates to the Constitutional Convention had no pattern to go by when they sewed this system together. And they were not quite sure what they had when they finished with it, but the system came to be called federalism in the United States, government based upon a written constitution in which power is divided between ( and shared by ) the national government and the states, it is also divided within the federal government. The national government features a separation of powers. Its executive branch, its legislative branch, and its judicial branch exercise powers that are largely separate and distinct. Congress is the legislative branch. It makes laws. The President is supposed to execute, or carry out, the laws. And the courts interpret the laws determining exactly what laws means if there is a dispute.

There is not a strict and complete separation of powers, but a partial one, the powers of the three branches overlap. The separation and the overlapping of powers are called checks and balances. The presidential veto is a good example. It is a presidential check on the power of Congress. If in disagreement with a bill passed by Congress, the President can veto (reject) it. In that case, the bill cannot become law unless it is again passed by both houses of Congress, but this time it must be passed by a two-thirds vote of both the House of Representatives and Senate to become law. Congress can check the power of the President and the judiciary in that, for example, it is Congress which has control over the budgets and expenditures of the other branches. Within Congress, itself, each house checks the power of the other because it takes the agreement of both houses to make a law. The judiciary checks the powers of the executive and legislative branches through its authority to interpret the law and the Constitution and to issue orders binding on the other branches- as when the Supreme Court ordered President Richard Nixon to turn over tapes of conversations in his office to a lower court in a criminal case.


Date: 2015-01-02; view: 1500

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THE RULES OF PRECEDENT | Checks and Balances
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