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unit 1: the constitution and the bill of rights

Terms in this set (35)

"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether one, a few, or many . . . may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."
—Federalist Paper Number 47

The Framers firmly believed in the idea of the separation of powers. The phrase "separation of powers" refers to a government system in which power is shared, usually between three branches.

The US Constitution divides the national government between the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judicial branch. Congress, which has the authority to pass laws, makes up the legislative branch. The president, who possesses executive authority, implements the laws passed by Congress. The judicial branch, which consists of the Supreme Court and lower courts, interprets laws and decides what is constitutional.

In addition to dividing the powers of the government, the Framers also gave each branch the power to stop or influence the actions of the other branches. This power to interfere established a system of checks and balances.

Under the system of checks and balances, the president has the power to appoint the members of the Supreme Court. The president also has the power to call a special session of Congress and the power to veto, or reject, laws passed by the legislature.

Congress on the other hand, has the power to override the president's veto with a two-thirds majority vote. Congress holds the final power to fund presidential initiatives and can approve presidential nominees to the Supreme Court and other positions. If the president or a judge does something illegal, Congress also has the authority to remove officials through the process of impeachment.

The Supreme Court primarily exerts the power of judicial review. If the court decides that a law passed by Congress or an action of the president goes against the Constitution, it can declare that law or action unconstitutional and nullify it.