Us Government - Checks and Balances

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"There is no more important function for all of government to define the rights of its citizens." (Norman Dorsen)

In this essay I will give a short history of the government in United States of America (U.S.). Then I will describe each of the three branches of government in the U.S. and the relationship between them.

In principle, the U.S. is a democratic republic, they govern themselves by choosing their leaders by secret ballot, and these leaders in turn make the rules. Americans started "governing themselves" as a nation on July 4th, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia by representatives of the thirteen British colonies in North America. These states joined together formally in 1781 under a first "constitution," the Articles of Confederation. That loose union of the states was replaced by the Constitution of the U.S. in 1789. This document (amended 26 times) is still the political foundation of the U.S. Being based on a written constitution, the U.S. government is committed in principle to the rule of law. To guarantee the rights of free speech, a free press, freedom of religion etc. the first ten amendments, called the "Bill of Rights" were adopted in 1791.

There are three levels of government in the U.S. Local government (city/county), state government, and federal government. Here I will pay most attention to the federal government. Many of the concepts of the U.S. government can be traced to progressive thinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, e.g. Locke, Spinoza, Blackstone, and Montesquiueu. Out of some of their thoughts the U.S. government system with the three branches were made: A legislative branch (Congress), an Executive branch (President), and a judicial branch (Supreme Court). The Constitution is most of all a document of checks and balances: among the three branches of the federal government; and between the levels of government, nation and state.

The legislative branch (Congress) that has the power to make laws valid for the whole country. Powers like the regulation of taxes, regulation of commerce between the states and with foreign countries, the power to declare war, and the power to impeach the President are some of the other matters the legislative branch have to deal with. Congress has two chambers (or "houses"): the Senate and the House of Representatives ("the house"). The Senate consists of one hundred senators: Two senators from each of the fifty states. The senators serve for six-year terms. One third are elected every two years. The Senate's area of responsibility consists of to approve major presidential appointments, and approve major foreign policy steps. The House of Representatives has their 435 members (called "congress-men/women/people/persons") chosen from districts (the U.S. is divided into 435 districts containing some five hundred thousand inhabitants). The districts are reapportioned every ten years. The representatives serve in two-year terms, and all of them are elected every two years. All tax legislation must start in the House.

Executive power is vested in the office of the President of the U.S. The President has the dual role of being the chief of state and the head of government. The President is also commander in chief of the armed forces; he issues executive orders, and appoints Supreme Court justices (with senate approval). The president is also called "the chief legislator" because he/she indirectly proposes many bills, considers all bills from Congress and signs them into law or vetoes them. The President is elected by "the whole country" for four years. He/she is assisted by the Cabinet and its departments, the White House staff, and some independent administrative agencies.

The Supreme Court: "The Judicial power of the U.S. shall be vested in one supreme court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress from time to time may ordain an establish."(The Constitution states). All nine federal...
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