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Rule by kings and emperors was an old style of government, and the legislature in many ways represented the new. Almost certainly, the founders intended Congress to have more important powers than the President and the Supreme Court. However, they placed many checks and balances on the legislature that have prevented absolute power in the hands of one branch. Founders controlled power not only by checks from the other branches, but by creating a bicameral, or two house, Congress — the Senate and the House of Representatives.

The powers of Congress, then, are both constitutional and evolutionary. The Constitution specifically grants Congress its most important power — the authority to make laws. A bill , or proposed law, only becomes a law after both the House of Representatives and the Senate have approved it in the same form. The two houses share other powers, many of which are listed in Article I, Section 8. These include the power to declare war, coin money, raise an army and navy, regulate commerce, establish rules of immigration and naturalization, and establish the federal courts and their jurisdictions.

Section 1. All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives. The House of Representatives shall choose their Speaker and other Officers; and shall have the sole Power of Impeachment. Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.

Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting. Effect, shall be approved by him, or being disapproved by him, shall be repassed by two thirds of the Senate and House of Representatives, according to the Rules and Limitations prescribed in the Case of a Bill.

And To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof. The Constitution also gives each house of Congress some special, exclusive powers.

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Such powers given to the House of Representatives include the following:. Revenue bills must originate in the House of Representatives. Although this power is still honored today, it tends to have blurred over the years. Often budget bills are considered simultaneously in both houses. For example, current discussions of possible tax cuts are taking place not only in both houses, but in the executive branch as well.

Impeachment power , the authority to charge the President and other "civil officers" with wrongdoing, is given to the House. A simple majority vote can impeach an elected official. Major presidential appointments must be confirmed by the Senate. The Senate offers " advice and consent " to the President by a majority vote on the appointments of federal judges, ambassadors, and Cabinet positions. Treaties with other nations entered into by the President must be approved by a two-thirds vote by the Senate.

This provision is an illustration of checks and balances, and it has served as a very important restriction to foreign policy powers of the President. An impeachment trial occurs in the Senate. If the House votes to impeach an elected official, the accused party gets a hearing in the Senate. A two-thirds majority can convict the individual and remove him or her from office. The "elastic," or implied powers, clause gives Congress the authority to pass laws it deems "necessary and proper" to carry out its enumerated functions.

Many Congressional powers that have evolved over the years are based on this important clause. Here are a couple. Oversight of the budget. To prevent one branch of government from becoming supreme, to protect the minority from the majority, and to induce the branches to cooperate, government systems employ a separation of powers in order to balance each of the branches.

This is accomplished through a system of checks and balances which allows one branch to limit another, such as the power of Congress to alter the composition and jurisdiction of the federal courts. The Constitution and its amendments outline distinct powers and tasks for national and state governments. Some of these constitutional provisions enhance the power of the national government; others boost the power of the states.

The U. Constitution : The Constitution originally established that, in most states, all white men with property were permitted to vote. White working men, almost all women, and other people of color were denied the franchise until later years. The legislative branch Congress passes bills, has broad taxing and spending power, controls the federal budget and has power to borrow money on the credit of the United States.

It has sole power to declare, as well as to raise, support, and regulate the military. Congress oversees, investigates, and makes the rules for the government and its officers. It defines by law the jurisdiction of the federal judiciary in cases not specified by the Constitution. Congress is in charge of ratifying treaties signed by the President and gives advice and consent to presidential appointments to the federal, judiciary, and executive departments.

The branch has sole power of impeachment House of Representatives and trial of impeachments Senate , meaning it can remove federal executive and judicial officers from office for high crimes and misdemeanors. The executive branch President is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He executes the instructions of Congress, may veto bills passed by Congress, and executes the spending authorized by Congress.

The president declares states of emergency, publishes regulations and executive orders, makes executive agreements, and signs treaties ratification of these treaties requires the vote of two-thirds of the Senate. He makes appointments to the federal judiciary, executive departments, and other posts with the advice and consent of the Senate, and has power to make temporary appointments during the recess of the Senate.

The judicial branch Supreme Court determines which laws Congress intended to apply to any given case, exercises judicial review, reviewing the constitutionality of laws and determines how Congress meant the law to apply to disputes. The Supreme Court arbitrates how a law acts to determine the disposition of prisoners, determines how a law acts to compel testimony and the production of evidence.

Governors and State Legislatures | American Government

The Supreme Court also determines how laws should be interpreted to assure uniform policies in a top-down fashion via the appeals process, but gives discretion in individual cases to low-level judges. The amount of discretion depends upon the standard of review, determined by the type of case in question. Federal judges serve for life. Skip to main content. Search for:. Federalism in the Constitution Federalism Federalism is the system where sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and constituent units. Learning Objectives Discuss the origins and development of federalism in the United States from the ratification of the Constitution to the Great Depression, and identify the structure of federalism.

Key Takeaways Key Points Federalism is based on democratic rules and institutions in which the power to govern is shared between national and state governments. The movement arose out of the discontent with the Articles of Confederation and the creation of the Constitution. The Federalist Papers, written by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, examined the benefits of the new Constitution and analyzed the political theory and function behind its various articles.

Anti-Federalists believed that the legislative and executive branches had too much unchecked power and that the Bill of Rights should be coupled with the Constitution to prevent a dictator from exploiting citizens. With the Great Depression and the New Deal, America has moved from dual federalism to associative federalism. Key Terms sovereignty : The state of making laws and controlling resources without the coercion of other nations; supreme authority over all things.

Legislative Branch

The basic philosophy during this time was that the U. Both the 16th and 17th amendments bolstered the power of the national government and further divided state and federal power. The Powers of National Government The federal government is composed of three branches: executive, legislative, and judiciary, whose powers are granted by the Constitution.

Learning Objectives Describe the power-sharing arrangements enshrined in the Constitution. The Constitution grants powers to Congress and any disputes are decided by the Supreme Court. The executive power is vested in the President, although power is often delegated to the Cabinet members and other officials. The judiciary explains and applies the laws. This branch makes decisions on various legal cases.

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Key Terms bicameral : Having, or pertaining to, two separate legislative chambers or houses. Congress : The U. Congress holds legislative power. The Powers of State Government State governments are republics formed by citizens in the jurisdiction as provided by the Constitution.

Learning Objectives Describe the distribution of powers within individual states. Key Takeaways Key Points State governments are structured in accordance with state laws with three branches of government: legislative, executive, and judicial. All governmental powers not granted to the federal government by the Constitution are reserved for the states or the people under the Tenth Amendment.

The legislative branch consists of state legislatures known as the Legislature of the General Assembly. The executive branch is headed by an elected Governor.

The 3 Branches of Government Explained

Each state is free to organize its executive departments and agencies any way it likes. The judicial branch is headed by a Supreme Court that hears appeals from lower state courts. The Powers of Local Government Powers of local governments are defined by state rather than federal law, and states have adopted a variety of systems of local government.

Learning Objectives Distinguish among the various types and levels of local government within the States. Key Takeaways Key Points Each state typically has at least two separate tiers of local governments: counties and municipalities. The Tenth Amendment makes local government a matter of state rather than federal law, with special cases for territories and the District of Columbia. Census Bureau conducts a Census of Governments every five years to compile statistics. County governments are organized local governments authorized in state constitutions and statutes for administrative purposes.

Key Terms municipal : Of or pertaining to a municipality a city or a corporation having the right of administering local government.

1. Introduction

Interstate Relations Article Four of the United States Constitution outlines the relationship between the states, with Congress having power to admit new states. Learning Objectives Summarize the relations between the States envisioned in the Constitution. Key Takeaways Key Points States are guaranteed military and civil defense by the federal government. Article Four of the U.


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Constitution, which outlines the relationship between the states, gives Congress the power to admit new states to the Union. States are prohibited from discriminating against other states with respect to their basic rights under the Privileges and Immunities Clause. A state must extradite people located there who have fled charges of treason, felony or other crimes in another state if the other state demands such action. Constitution, which prevents a state from treating citizens of other states in a discriminatory manner extradition : A formal process by which a criminal suspect held by one government is handed over to another government for trial or, if the suspect has already been tried and found guilty, to serve his or her sentence.

Concurrent Powers Concurrent powers are the powers that are shared by both the State and the federal government, exercised simultaneously. Learning Objectives Describe concurrent powers and how they are exercised in the federal system. Key Takeaways Key Points Concurrent powers may be exercised simultaneously within the same territory and in relation to the same body of citizens. Concurrent powers include regulating elections, taxing, borrowing money and establishing courts. In the Commerce Clause, the Constitution gives the national government broad power to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, several States and Indian tribes.

Key Terms concurrent powers : legal and political control that is shared by both the State and the federal government, in nations with a federal system of government concurrent : Happening at the same time; simultaneous. Learning Objectives Discuss how the Supremacy Clause shapes the relationship between federal and state law. The Federalist Papers contain two sections that support the Supremacy Clause. Madison argues it is vital to the functioning of the nation. There has been some debate as to whether or not some of the basic principles of the Constitution could be affected by international treaty.


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Key Terms null : A non-existent or empty value or set of values. Constitution, federal statutes, and U. Legislation as constitutional interpretation: another dialogue Andre Lajoie with Ccile Bergada and ric Glineau; The constitution and congressional committees: Keith E. Is Legislative Constitutionalism Possible? Democratic decision-making as the first principle of contemporary constitutionalism Jeremy Webber; Legislative constitutionalism in a system of judicial supremacy Daniel A.


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