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Checks and Balances in the Three Branches of Government

The United States Government is set up of three branches that check and balance each other. Here are the basic powers and checks.

Our Constitution architects created a fundamental principle underlying the strength and tension of the federal government. No one wanted anyone else to become too powerful. So for almost every power they granted one branch of government, they created an equal power of control for the other two. The legislature could “check” the power of the President; the Supreme Court could “check” the power of Congress, and so on maintaining a “balance” among the three branches.

Basic Power and Checks:

Executive Powers (President)

  • Approves or vetoes federal bills
  • Carries out federal laws
  • Appoints judges and other high officials
  • Makes foreign treaties
  • Can grant pardons and reprieves to federal offenders.
  • Acts as commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Checks on Executive Powers:

  • Congress can override vetoes by two-thirds vote.
  • Senate can refuse to confirm appointments or ratify treaties.
  • Congress can impeach and remove the President.
  • Congress can declare war.
  • Supreme Court can declare executive acts unconstitutional.

Legislative Powers (Congress)

Passes federal laws.

 Establishes lower federal courts and the number of federal judges.

Can override the President’s veto with two-thirds vote.

Checks on Legislative Powers:

  • Presidential veto of federal bills.
  • Supreme Court can rule laws unconstitutional.
  • Both houses of Congress must vote to pass laws. Checking power within the Legislature.

Judicial Powers:

  • Interprets and applies the law by trying federal cases.
  • Can declare laws passed by Congress and executive actions unconstitutional.

Checks on Judicial Powers:

  • Congress can propose constitutional amendments to overturn judicial decisions. (These require two-thirds majority in both houses, and ratifications by three-quarters of states.)
  • Congress can impeach and remove federal judges.
  • The President appoints judges (who must be confirmed by the Senate.)

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User Comments
  1. Lucy Lockett

    On January 22, 2008 at 5:28 am


    This is an informative article that puts things into perspective, especially for the younger readers.

  2. Judy Sheldon-Walker

    On January 22, 2008 at 6:29 am


    Good job explaining our government. Thank you, Ruby.

  3. Alexa Gates

    On January 22, 2008 at 2:31 pm


    I think all high-schoolers should read this because the teachers arent’ teaching it

  4. Ruby Hawk

    On January 22, 2008 at 6:38 pm


    Thank you ladies, Alexa maybe its just me but I go to my grandchildrens classes sometimes and I don’t see how the children learn anything. So many disruptions and unruly students. You can’t hear yourself think.It certainly isn’t the way it was when mine were in school.

  5. Amos

    On January 25, 2008 at 12:48 pm


    I learned a little more than I knew before I read your piece. Thankds for taking the time to educate an old foggy like me.

  6. Amelia

    On January 28, 2008 at 5:58 pm


    Thanks, My test is tomorrow. I love you.

  7. Hannah

    On January 31, 2008 at 4:52 pm


    I have forgotten so much that I learned in high school. It’s good to have a refresher course.

  8. Harold

    On February 1, 2008 at 6:29 pm


    Its always good to have a refresher course, thanks Ruby.

  9. Ruby Hawk

    On February 18, 2008 at 5:32 pm


    Thanks to you all for taking your time to stop by and leave a comment. I really appreciate it. Good luck to you all, Ruby

  10. Talia

    On March 26, 2008 at 8:49 am


    This is a great website that gives a good dose of information. Thanks Ruby

  11. lalahommed

    On October 3, 2008 at 12:32 pm


    i hate the goivernment system

  12. lalhommed

    On February 8, 2009 at 2:35 pm


    ya so very stupid

  13. H3LL0..

    On April 22, 2009 at 7:02 pm


    I just wrote a report for school using this website and I got an A+, thanks Ruby!
    and if we didnt have a government system today our country would be out of control because we wouldn’t have any laws or rules and our country would be out of control.
    so the government isnt stupid its just not very interesting.

  14. Cibola

    On May 11, 2009 at 10:37 am


    This is so confusing!!! Everyone is the same in some way or another!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. muffy

    On June 7, 2009 at 1:12 pm


    CHICKEN mango :) :):):):)

  16. Ruby Hawk

    On July 10, 2009 at 6:10 pm


    Thank you my dear friends for your comments.

    h3llo, I’m so happy that you made an excellent grade. I’m happy to be of help.

  17. hmmmidk :D

    On October 23, 2009 at 10:00 am


    yes GOOD info, thanks alot, my teachers teach this but left out some of this info!
    Im in da 8th so ya thnx

  18. michael slater

    On November 17, 2009 at 12:27 pm


    thx 4 tha info i needed it my teacher is a bumm i am also in da 8th but thx

  19. Math Is Power!

    On December 8, 2009 at 3:42 pm


    Thanks so much! I was in a freakin’ twist! our teachers are giving us a buttload of work this week, because the end of next week is the beginning of winter break (WooHoo!), and you know what that’s like. Thanks! ^_^

  20. stephanie valencia

    On December 10, 2009 at 10:11 pm


    this was amazing! great way of explaining things. hopefully ill pass my u.s history test tomorrow :)

  21. =]

    On December 15, 2009 at 6:56 pm


    thank u so much,ur helpinf alot of ppl and i think its great =]

    god bless u =]

  22. Stoney Sauce

    On January 23, 2010 at 10:20 pm


    very interesting and idealistic but, in contemporary government, ultimately wrong. The rich bankers and oil billionaires control all US government branches.

    Oh, and guess what, the president can declare war on his own after all, as we have recently seen. Although, the president is merely a puppet of said oil bankers and billionaires, and as such has not technically acted on his own.

    FAIL!

  23. pickeloaf

    On January 27, 2010 at 4:21 pm


    great job, however the explanation of pickeloafs checks the judicial and legislative have on eachother not just the executive branch werent included. exam tommarow, this helped alot. thanks.

  24. Tim Turner

    On February 10, 2010 at 4:19 pm


    Hey Ruby,

    I think you may have forgotten the heading “Legislative powers”. There are only cheks for them, not their powers. But good job all around.

  25. Falyn Henry

    On February 19, 2010 at 7:52 pm


    I am a student in jr.high. i was doing social studies homework when i found this. it really helped alot. thanks….!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  26. scam venifuertu.

    On March 12, 2010 at 8:17 am


    pot@ larn pohhh … in gling niu pohhh…

  27. mark Quinto.

    On March 12, 2010 at 8:19 am


    la ppoke ng ina niu pote titi ng tatay niu poke ng lola mo

  28. NICOL3

    On March 25, 2010 at 4:13 pm


    this helped for my checks and balences homework. thanks:):)

  29. Jessica Honnell

    On April 6, 2010 at 10:57 am


    Thank you for helping me wit my homework!!! :) :)

  30. tweetybe

    On April 6, 2010 at 10:59 am


    Thank you for helping me wit my homework!!! :) :)

  31. tweetybe1234

    On April 6, 2010 at 11:00 am


    Thank you for helping me with my homework!!! :) :)

  32. Rachel.

    On April 22, 2010 at 6:58 am


    I am a Highschool student (Sophomore Civics) , and I had an assignment having to do with this. My teacher didn’t say what or how to do it. Thanks for the info; it’s really helpful.

  33. Brittyne

    On May 23, 2010 at 5:36 pm


    Thank you, this helped so much!! Definitely explained things better than I thought it could be. LOL Thanks again so much!! I wish I would\’ve learned more about this in high school.

  34. ruby tusday

    On January 27, 2011 at 4:27 pm


    thank you for helping me

  35. ashlyu

    On February 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm


    thanx but i needed the balance

  36. sharif d

    On May 8, 2011 at 2:59 pm


    I go to Berkmar high shcool and this piece of information isn’t helpful at all.

  37. Heyyo

    On November 1, 2012 at 1:16 pm


    Well. What kind of school are you in if you didn’t learn this in like 5th grade. This is such basic info and so easy to figure out. And its kinda confusing on this website. But thanks I guess. Even though I knew this.

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