Public Administration Explained: Branches of the US Government
The United States Constitution established the nation’s current system of government when it was signed in 1787. The government consists of three branches, and the power of the government is divided between them in a system of checks and balances so that no one branch is too powerful. The executive, legislative, and judicial branches work together to keep our government running smoothly and efficiently.
- The Constitution: Read the Constitution to see the basis for our system of government.
- History of the Constitution: The Constitution was born out of dissatisfaction with the previous form of government, which gave the states too much power.
- Bill of Rights: The Bill of Rights consists of the first ten amendments to the Constitution, and it outlines the rights of citizens and states.
- Amendments to the Constitution: Since the Constitution was adopted, amendments have been added as needed, making it a living document.
The executive branch of the government consists of the president, the vice president, the Cabinet, and various federal agencies. While Congress creates the laws, the president has the responsibility to enforce them so that the country runs smoothly. The president can also grant pardons, appoint ambassadors, and choose the Cabinet, a group of leaders of federal agencies who advise the president. In addition, the president is commander in chief of the military.
- Introduction to the Executive Branch: Learn about the different parts of the executive branch and what they do here.
- Article II of the Constitution: Article II is the section of the Constitution that outlines the parts and duties of the executive branch of government.
- The Executive Branch of the U.S. Government: This article explores the parts of the executive branch of the federal government and their roles.
- The 15 Cabinet-Level Departments: The president is advised by the Cabinet, which consists of the vice president and the leaders of the 15 executive departments.
- The President’s Job: The Constitution outlines the job duties of the president, including commanding the military and enforcing the nation’s laws.
The legislative branch deals with the creation of the nation’s laws. The Senate and the House of Representatives are the two parts of the legislative branch: While the Senate gives equal power to each state, the House grants representation based on population, so more populous states have more representatives than smaller states. Both houses must pass a bill in order for it to become law.
The Senate has the power to create and vote on laws as well as authorize treaties and judicial nominations. The presiding official of the Senate is the vice president, who is also allowed to cast a tie-breaking vote if needed.
The House of Representatives creates and passes laws along with the Senate, and any proposals concerning revenue, such as raising taxes, must come from the House before being voted on by the Senate.
The legislative branch also has the authority to declare war, and it can impeach the president and hold a trial that can lead to the president’s removal.
- Delegation of Legislative Power: The National Conference of State Legislatures looks at the duties of the legislative branch and which of its tasks may be delegated to other entities.
- About the Legislative Branch: This article explains what the legislative branch is and what it does for us.
- The Legislative Branch: The basics of the legislative branch and what it does are covered in this document.
- Congress and its Impact on the Economy: The legislative branch contains many different offices and agencies, and one of its most important jobs is to create and pass a federal budget every year.
- Understanding Congressional Leadership: The way things are done is very different in the Senate versus the House of Representatives.
The judicial branch encompasses our court system. It interprets the laws that are passed by judging individual court cases, and it determines whether a law is unconstitutional. The judicial branch consists of federal courts and the Supreme Court, the nation’s highest court. The Supreme Court has nine members, including the chief justice, and each judge serves for life or until they resign.
- Judicial Branch: Learn the basics about the judicial branch of government and how it was laid out in Article III of the Constitution.
- The Jay Court: The original Supreme Court consisted of six members and was led by Chief Justice John Jay.
- Cases on the Supreme Court Docket: Read about the cases currently before the nation’s highest court on this page.
- Supreme Court Cases That Changed America: Take a look at some of the Supreme Court decisions that had major impacts on American society.