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.
- 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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