The U.S. government is made up of three different branches: executive, legislative and judicial. No single branch is supposed to be the most powerful; they were designed to constrain one another and prevent rapid changes in the Constitution and the laws of the country.
This is the part of the government that is responsible for enforcing the laws made by the legislative branch. The president of the United States is the most visible face of the executive branch. He is the head of state and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president is one of many thousands of employees who work in the executive branch; this branch has far more people working in it than the other two branches of the government. The president appoints many positions in the executive branch and Congress must approve these appointments.
The legislative branch is the part of the government responsible for making laws. It also has some very impressive powers, including the power to declare wars. It is made up of two houses including the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Senate has 100 members, two from each state, and each member serves a renewable six-year term. There are 435 members of the House of Representatives, each representing a local district within a state. The larger states in terms of population numbers have more representatives than smaller states because districts are built roughly on number of people. The bicameral legislature is a byproduct of “The Great Compromise” between large and small states that got separate houses to split the power between large populations centers and minority populations in smaller states.
Federal courts in the judicial branch are responsible for interpreting the constitutionality of laws made by Congress. Members of the judicial branch are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States and is the only portion of the judicial branch that is required by the Constitution, but there are also two lower levels called district courts and circuit courts. There are 94 district courts in the U.S., with several states having more than one. The decisions made in district courts can be appealed by 12 circuit courts throughout the country. The Supreme Court usually only deals with cases involving constitutional law. It has one chief justice and eight associate justices who vote on these cases with the majority opinion winning.
Each branch of the government is supposed to balance the power of the other two branches. The president can veto a law passed by Congress and the Congress approves all appointments made in the executive branch. The Supreme Court can overturn laws and presidential decisions that conflict with the U.S. Constitution.
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